W A Mozart (1756 – 1791)
Horn Concerto in E flat, K417 (1783)
1. Allegro maestoso (6’ 26”)
2. Andante (3’ 25”)
3. Rondo (3’40”)
Eric Penzel Horn; The Vienna Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bernhard Paumgartner (Phillips Classics)
Mozart’s so called “second” horn concerto (in reality it was the first he completed) was one of four written for his friend Joseph Ignaz Leutgeb (1745-1811).
Leutgeb was the principal horn in the orchestra of the Archbishop of Salzburg when Mozart grew up, and many of the virtuosic horn parts in Mozart’s early symphonies would have been written with him in mind.
Leutgab gave up professional music in 1777 and moved to Vienna to open a cheese shop - a venture partially funded by a loan from Leopold Mozart. This was apparently a successful business providing him with a living and the opportunity to make occasional concert appearances as a soloist.
In 1781, Mozart settled in Vienna and they renewed their acquaintance. They remained friends for life and indeed Leutgeb helped Constanze in organising Mozart’s manuscripts after his untimely death.
The concerto follows the usual three movement format, beginning with an Allegro maestoso with broad melodies well suited to the rich and noble voice of the horn. The movement demands both effortless breath control and considerable agility from the soloist. The second movement is lyrical and reflective, and explores the beauty of a sustained horn melody. The final movement is a lively rondo placing the horn in its most usual context - the hunt.
At each return of the rondo theme, the soloist leads off the hunt closely followed by the full orchestra. The movement sustains the idiom of the chase throughout and is filled with fanfares and brilliant dialogue between the soloist and orchestral instruments.
Scherzo No 2 in b flat, op 31 (1837) (9’ 21”)
Vuval Fichman, piano (Laserlight Digital Recording)
Schumann compared this scherzo to a Byronic poem ‘so overflowing with tenderness, boldness, love and contempt’. This piece is heard in the Woody Woodpecker episode ‘Musical Moments’.
Donald Tovey (1875 – 1940)
Elegiac Variations, Op 25 for cello and piano (1932/33) (10’ 11”)
Ulster Orchestra with George Vass, conductor; Alice Neary, cello; Gretel Dowdeswell piano (Toccata Classics, First Modern Recording).
Donald Tovey has long been known as one of the finest writers on music in English, although he saw himself primarily as a composer.
The tone of the dark, heroic Elegiac Variations was inspired by the death of Robert Hausmann (1852 – 1909)*, cellist of the Joachim Quartet and a cherished chamber-music partner of Tovey’s.
· Hausmann premiered important works by Johannes Brahms (including the Double Concerto) and Max Bruch (including Kol Nidrei). He was also a teacher and a minor composer.
Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897)
1. Allegro non troppo (cadenza: Nigel Kennedy) (26’ 17”)
2. Adagio (oboe: David Theodore) (11’ 19”)
3. Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo vivace (8’ 18”)
Nigel Kennedy (Violin)
The London Philharmonic (leader David Nolan), conducted by Klaus Tennstedt
(EMI Records Ltd)
This piece was dedicated to his friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim. It’s Brahm’s only violin concerto. Premiered January 1 1879 by Joachim, with critical reaction to the work being mixed. There are formidable technical demands on the soloist. Violin friendly key of D as open strings add brilliance to the sound.
The 3rd movement was the inspiration for the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice song ‘Don’t Cry for me Argentina’ from the musical Evita. (and the opening tune in the first movement sounds to me like the famous Florrie Ford's's rendition of 'She's a Lassie from Lancashire' - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ru0zkdcNXs. I wonder if it does for anyone else?).