Thursday, December 20, 2007

Allan, Allan, Allan

Allan Kozin spends an unusual amount of ink moaning about balances and the difficulty of playing the French horn in a review of a concert by Chamber Music at the Y.

What the performers needed was period instruments. The modern horn has a bigger sound than the 19th century horn. Check out, if you can find the set, John Eliot Gardiner's Schumann symphonies and the Konzertstuck for four horns, performed by the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. Look up the demonstration podcasts at the Web site of the New Queen's Hall Orchestra, which plays using the instruments that would have been used by a British orchestra around a century ago.

Sometimes period instruments are the right choice!


rootlesscosmo said...

I'm pretty sure Brahms wrote the Horn Trio (one of the pieces on the program Kozinn reviewed) for Natur-horn, though the valved horn was already in general use; I'm told the part avoids accidentals that a Natur-horn can't produce. I have two good recordings, but both on modern horn; I'd love to hear the piece on the instrument it was composed for.

Dan Johnson said...

There's a good, cheap Harmonia Mundi recording of the trio (and the Beethoven sonata) on period instruments. As for Gardiner, YES! Those discs are GREAT. Herreweghe's Schumann is also very good—I'm starting to think HIP is actually a must in this rep.

(Ligeti uses four natural horns in his Hamburg Concerto, too—each in a different key. Terrific sound.)

bryan said...

"Period instrument" does not necessarily equal valveless horn, though, as a visit to the New Queen's website will show. I believe at least two of the four parts in the Konzertstück were written for some early valved horn. And there are modern instruments with smaller bores. Hard to say what Jolley was playing.

Kozin also complains about "cracked" notes, which it's hard to blame on the instrument, though I guess Jolley could have been trying to play too softly.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I'm just floored that Ligeti used natural horns in anything! Wow. I need to get that Harmonia Mundi set, I guess. I hear good things about Herreweghe in other repertory, too.

Bryan, thanks for that info.