Music for horn & strings,
Alessandro Denabian, & Quartetto Delfico
Music by Cherubini, Dauprat & Reicha
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his CD is the answer to what was happening in the world of the horn in the early 19th century. The date mentioned in the title marks the self-coronation of Napoleon as Emperor but is also the composition date of two of the works recorded here, the two sonatas by Luigi Cherubini for horn and string quartet. The second Sonata is a more substantial piece with genuine musical merit while the first sounds a bit like a test piece. Although work was already underway to develop the valves which would make the horn truly chromatic, faced with increasingly wayward melodic lines, players of the natural horn had developed a deftness with hand-stopping which in effect allowed them to play relatively chromatic music, and it is the natural valveless horn which Alessandro Denabian employs here. The Horn Quintet, one of a set of three, by the horn player and composer Louis Dauprat published in 1817 was also conceived for the natural horn, although the valved instrument was by now available. Melodically imaginative and making expert use of the horn, this quintet is given a stirring performance by Denabian and the Quartetto Delfico. The lively acoustic of the Auditorium Montis Regalis in Mondovi allows Denabian to produce a relatively uniform tone through hand-stopped and ‘open’ notes, and demonstrates why performers and composers might have been reluctant to abandon hard-won technique in favour of unreliable mechanics – we would recall that much later in the century Brahms and even Ravel sometimes preferred the sound of the natural horn. The finest music on the CD is the Quintet op. 106 by Anton Reicha, composed in 1819 for Dauprat to play. All of the composers represented here were associated with the Paris Conservatoire and would have been very familiar with one another’s compositions and playing. Reicha is primarily famous for his compositions for wind instruments, and in this quintet the horn is very much cast as the virtuosic soloist, while the strings accompany in a more restrained style. Denabian’s technique and warm tone ensure that his performance of this demanding music is both impressive and persuasive.
D. James Ross
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