La Fanfare Wagnérienne by Eric Crees

Eric Crees with Guildhall Brass, La Fanfare Wagnérienne (The Extraordinary Lost Collection of Paul Gilson) Musical Concepts MC245, 2013.

In our present age, where everything from a pizza to a sunset to God is deemed “awesome,” a reviewer needs to be careful that his words have meaning and he does not descend into adjective-laden hyperbole. But there is no exaggeration at play in saying that Eric Crees and the students at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama have given us a wholly satisfying recording that exhibits all of the hallmarks of a superb, memorable and historically important offering: compelling repertoire, engaging performance, inspired leadership, informed scholarship and excellent recorded sound.

Readers of this Journal will recall Luc Vertommen’s book with three companion compact discs, Some Missing Episodes in Brass (Band) History, that was reviewed by this writer (HBSJ 24 [2012], 196–99). Vertommen's book—really an adaptation of his 2011 Doctoral dissertation from the University of Salford—highlighted three aspects of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century brass history that had fallen into obscurity: the trombone with six independent valves and the solo music written for it by Jules Demesserman, Adolphe Sax's development of the saxhorn family and music written and arranged for saxhorns by Belgian composers from 1850 to 1913, and the original compositions for Fanfare Wagnérienne by Paul Gilson composed between 1894 and 1909. Aspects of this were explored by Ray D. Burkhart in his paper, “The Paris Factor: French influence on brass chamber music 1840-1930,” presented at the Historic Brass Society Conference in Paris, 2007, but Vertommen's book, despite its disjointed structure and alarmingly poor editing and proofreading, proved useful in shedding more light on instruments and music that are worthy of further study. Of the three subjects, it is the music composed by Paul Gilson, found in the Library of the Royal Conservatory, Brussels, that was Vertommen's great discovery.

Original works for mixed brass ensemble began to appear with greater frequency in the late nineteenth century; among the more compelling examples are Edvard Grieg's 1878 arrangement for brass of his Sørgenmarsch over Rikard Nordråk of 1866, the brass quintets of Viktor Ewald composed beginning around 1890 and the brass septets of Jean Sibelius from 1889-1899. However, Percy Fletcher has often been credited with having composed the first significant, original composition, Labour and Love, for a large brass ensemble; for British-style brass band to be precise. Composed as the test piece for the 1913 Crystal Palace National Contest (won by Irwell Springs conducted by William Halliwell), Labour and Love represented a radical departure from the standard fare for brass bands that had been played in concert and contest up to that point, that being arrangements of classical and popular orchestral works, marches and solos. That Luc Vertommen uncovered a substantial body of high quality original works written for brasses by Belgian composer Paul Gilson during the two decades before Fletcher's seminal work is not merely notable but it causes us to rewrite the received history of brass ensemble music.

Paul Gilson (1865–1942) composed six pieces (or seven, depending on how one counts them) for the “Fanfare Wagnérienne”, a brass and percussion ensemble organized in 1894 at the Brussels Conservatory by Henri Séha. The ensemble’s instrumentation was patterned after the brass scoring of Richard Wagner in his Das Ring der Nibelungen and called for trumpets (including bass trumpet), horns, Wagner tubas, trombones (including contrabass trombone) tubas (including contrabass tuba) and percussion. These are important, substantial pieces, the longest of which, Variations Symphoniques (1903) clocks in at about 20 minutes. Vertommen, with his deep roots in brass banding, arranged Gilson’s compositions for British-style brass band and released a recording, Anthology of Flemish Band Music Vol. 7 – Paul Gilson (1865–1942): Complete works for the Fanfare Wagnérienne” with Brass Band Buizingen and Delta Brass Zeeland under his direction. This recording brought Gilson’s music much needed attention but at the time of its release in 2012 it begged the question, “What does Gilson's music sound like in the composer’s intended instrumentation?”

Having been introduced to Gilson’s music by Luc Vertommen, into the breech stepped Eric Crees. His background as trombonist with the London Symphony and Royal Opera Covent Garden and as an arranger, composer, and teacher – he is Professor of Trombone and conductor of Wind, Brass and Percussion at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, and was recipient of the International Trombone Association's 2014 Neill Humfield Award—uniquely positioned him to bring Gilson’s music alive once again as intended.  The result is the 2013 release, La Fanfare Wagnérienne (The Extraordinary Lost Collection of Paul Gilson) and publication of Crees’s performing editions of Gilson’s music. The result is superb.

Eric Crees’s decision to explore this repertoire in its original instrumentation with students at London’s Guildhall School is testament to the skill and commitment of his young charges who, from all appearances, embraced rehearsing, performing and recording Gilson’s works during the 2010–11 school year with startling commitment. One is hard pressed to find cause to think that the Guildhall Brass is “just another student group.” Rather, the nearly 50 students who participated in the three recording sessions for the project – a complete list of personnel is given in the CD booklet – show themselves to be professional in every way, with clarity and purity of sound, a wide dynamic range, blistering technique and, with a tip of the hat to those playing the Alexander Wagner tubas, spot-on intonation. Within the first 30 seconds of the opening track, Gilson’s Scherzo Fantastique, one hears the brass section enter in turn – trumpets, horns, trombones and then tubas—in a fanfare that is electrifying in its power and ability to engage the listener. This is both playing and music of extraordinarily high quality that makes for immensely enjoyable listening.

A word must be said about the comparison of Crees’s recording of Gilson’s music in the original instrumentation and Luc Vertommen’s recording of the same repertoire in his arrangement for British-style brass band. The sonic contrast could not be more striking, with the cylindrical bore trumpets and trombones of Guildhall Brass providing much more visceral impact and aural diversity than the saxhorns of the Vertommon’s brass bands. Each editor has made particular choices in how to negotiate Gilson’s considerable demands.  Nowhere is this more evident than in Gilson’s Fantasie. In the Guildhall Brass recording, trombones expertly execute a rapidly articulated passage at 2:48 that comes immediately after a lyrical, soft chorale featuring Wagner and bass tubas. The contrast in color and articulation is very satisfying for the listener, to say nothing of the fine technical work of the young trombonists.  But in the same passage, Vertommen moves the trombones to the chorale and leaves it to baritones and euphoniums to play the technical passage, and slurred rather than articulated. The result falls rather flat by comparison.

Not only does the Guildhall Brass recording contain well-written and informative program notes by Eric Crees, but Crees also has provided an extensive document – available on the Musical Concepts website – that outlines the editorial procedure for creating the performing edition of Gilson’s works. Crees has not created an urtext or critical edition. Rather, as the experienced performer and conductor that he is, he has edited Gilson with a modern eye and ear, modifying various instrument transpositions and indicating optional doublings, providing sensible metronome markings and bringing Gilson’s notation up to modern standards. Reading Crees’s document is an enlightening exercise that gives the listener even greater appreciation of the care given to showing Gilson’s music in the best possible light.

Recordings are too easy to produce and advertising is too successful in persuading the marketplace that mediocre is excellent. This is certainly the case with many recordings of music for large brass ensemble, where volume and power often are used to disguise either poor playing or musical kitsch. Happily, Eric Crees and students at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama have given us reason for hope. Not only is La Fanfare Wagnérienne (The Extraordinary Lost Collection of Paul Gilson) a recording of consequential repertoire, but the work of the Guildhall Brass students shows us that brass playing is in good hands with these players of the younger generation. Eric Crees is to be commended for his efforts in editing Gilson’s music and bringing it back to life in its original instrumentation over 100 years after it was first performed. Highly recommended.

-- Douglas Yeo, Arizona State University

Mozart: Stolen Beauties by Anneke Scott


Anneke Scott and Ironwood, Mozart: Stolen Beauties, Chamber music by Mozart, Punto, and Michael Haydn (ABC Classics, 2014) .

Ironwood personnel: Alice Evans & Julia Fredersdorff, violins, Nicole Forsyth & Heather Lloyd, violas, Daniel Yeadon, cello, Neal Peres Da Costa, pianoforte.
Instruments: Natural horn: Courtois Frère, Paris, c. 1835, with a detachable périnet valve set (sauterelle) by Antoine Halary, Paris, c. 1840; Violins: Mittenwald, 1750, and an 18th century Cremonese instrument; Violas: Thomas Dodd, London, 1820, and a Guarnarius copy built in 1998; Cello: William Forster II, London, c. 1780; Fortepiano: copy by D. Jacques Way, after Anton Walter, c. 1790



Anneke Scott is a natural horn player of the highest order. Her recent releases of works by Gallay are incomparable, and this recording lives up to the same standard. Mozart: Stolen Beauties is a delightful collection of works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Giovanni Punto, and Michael Haydn. Additionally, this recording features an incredibly demanding set of variations on Mozart’s “Là ci darem la mano” found among the music left behind by the Italian horn virtuoso Giovanni Puzzi. The composer of the variations remains unknown, but the piece gives us a wonderful snapshot of the virtuosity of Puzzi, a student of Luigi Belloli who greatly impressed Napoleon and then went on to become the foremost horn player in London during the first half of the 19th century.


Scott’s playing on this collection is sensitive throughout. Her articulations and tone quality consistently match the timbre of the other period instruments, from the velvety string sounds to the delicate sound of the fortepiano. There are many moments throughout the recording in which the strings and horns emulate each other’s portamentos with great ease.

Aside from the incredible set of variations that opens this recording, there are two very interesting presentations. One is an arrangement of Mozart’s “Kegelstatt” Trio (originally for clarinet, viola, and piano) set for horn, viola, cello, and piano. This Concertante setting was arranged by Barham Livius (1787–1865). Livius was a pupil of Giovanni Puzzi’s and a businessman in London, and similar to the variations on “Là ci darem la mano,” Livius’s arrangement was found in the folio of works left behind by Puzzi. The other pieces on this recording that are of particular interest are three movements from Giovanni Punto’s duets for horn and cello, especially since there may be no other recording available of these pieces on period instruments (at least as far as I am aware).

-- Eric Brummitt

Anneke Scott, Songs of Love, War and Melancholy

Anneke Scott, Songs of Love, War and Melancholy: The Operatic Fantasies of Jacques-François Gallay, Resonus Classics (RES10153), 2015.

Anneke Scott, natural horn (cor solo by Marcel-Auguste Raoux, 1823), Steven Devine, piano (grand piano by Érard, 1851), Lucy Crowe, soprano. Recorded at the Ruddick Performing Arts Centre, Birmingham on 16-18 August 2014Gallay’s fantasies on the operatic favorites of his day should be essential repertoire for any student of the horn. The intense vocal quality of the melodic lines contained in these fantasies is better than any of the vocalise studies I have played, even those of Giuseppe Concone. Certainly, the fact that these fantasies were composed by an expert hornist contributes to their superiority. But these fantasies also contain some of the most naturally “vocal” lines I have ever heard composed for the horn. Perhaps I am biased being a fan of the Italian repertoire, but other horn players will be hard pressed to disparage the quality of Gallay’s writing in these fantasies.

In this recording, Anneke Scott’s playing is exquisite. Her tone quality, expertly executed ornamentations, and agile hand-stopping technique make these performances truly remarkable. The piano playing by Steven Devine is perfectly balanced to Scott’s horn and together they produce hair-raising dynamic contrasts and bombastic finishes. Lucy Crowe’s voice is perfectly suited to the bel canto style of these settings and together with Scott’s horn the listener is treated to some fine duets between the soprano and the horn.

The fantasies Gallay composed that are represented on this recording are based material composed by the top Italian composers of the day: Bellini, Donizetti, and Mercadante. Gallay was the solo horn of the Théâtre Italien, beginning in 1825. The repertoire he played during his tenure there understandably became the inspiration for these wonderful compositions.

This recording includes extensive liner notes that are both enlightening and well written (they are downloadable by following the publisher’s link above). The importance of these fantasies as part of Gallay’s repertoire is discussed at length in the liner notes, along with the social and performance contexts in which these pieces would have been heard. Scott has dedicated a great deal of time in recent years to recording the music of Gallay. The liner notes she has written for this recording display her immense respect for the music, Gallay, and her world-class scholarship.

-- Eric Brummitt

Bach Orchestral Suites by La Petite Bande

Bach: The Orchestral Suites. La Petite Bande, Sigiswald Kuijken, Director. Accent ACC24279 (2013).

Sigiswald Kuijken, Sara Kuijken, Barbara Konrad, Ann Cnop; violins, Marleen Thiers; Viola, Marian Minnen, Ronan Kermoa; bass violins, Barthold Juijken; flute, Vinciane Baudhuin, Emiliano Rodolfi, Mathieu Loux; oboes, Rainer Johannsen; bassoon, Jean-François Madeuf, Jérôme Princé, Graham Nicholson; trumpets, Koen Plaetinck; timpani, Benjamin Alard; harpsichord.

La Petite Bande has recorded a spectacular rendition of Bach’s four orchestral suites, certainly some of the most spectacular instrumental music of the Baroque repertoire.  La Petite Bande director, Sigiswald Kuijken, has written a very informative essay explaining the history of these pieces. Unfortunately, more is unknown than known.  Kuijken speculates that the works were conceived for string orchestra and the wind parts were added at a later date. He also notes that sections of the 4th Suite were reused in the opening chorus of the Christmas Cantata, BWV 110.  Kuijken also remarks that he has rethought his approach to these works opting for small musical forces as opposed to the rather large ensemble that La Petite Bande employed in its performances and recording of about 30 years ago. He is to be commended for that note of honesty and courage to reexamine his previous musical approach.  Kuijken also takes special note of the trumpet section, praising them for their use of playing ventless instruments and employing authentic performance practice techniques. The pioneering work of historically informed trumpet performance by Jean-François Madeuf, Nicholson, Princé, and a few others is well known to HBS members. It is heartening to read the praise by a leading conductor so publically announced in the notes to a CD.

The performances of these works by La Petite Bande is stunning. The execution is precise and the fast tempi do not hinder the performance in the least. Of special interest to HBS members will be the wonderful trumpet playing. Madeuf and company play flawlessly and their ornaments are beautiful and tasteful.  The ensemble is playing at A= 415 Hz and the trumpeters are playing copies of an Ehe instrument made by Graham Nicholson. HBS members will certainly want this CD in their collection. We owe Madeuf a continued note of thanks for his tireless efforts at promoting authentic performance practice. It is encouraging that one of his first students, Jérôme Princé, is carrying on these efforts joining his former teacher in this wonderful recording.

-- Jeffrey Nussbaum

Destino Mexico by La Compania

La Compania. Destino Mexico: Baroque Rhythms from the New World. Recorded April, 2013: Ian Roach Hall, Melbourne, Australia.

Personnel: Danny Lucin, Director and cornetto (Serge Delmas, France, 2007); Lotte Betts-Dean, soprano; Daniel Thompson, tenor; Mitchell Gross, shawm, tenor dulcian; Brock Imison, alto dulcian, bass dulcian; Julian Bain, tenor sackbut (Rainer Egger, Switzerland, 2010); Glenn Bardwell, tenor sackbut (Rainer Egger, Switzerland, 1999); Victoria Watts, viola da gamba; Rosemary Hodgson, renaissance guitar, baroque guitar; Denis Close, cavquinho, percussion; Chirstine Baker, percussion.

In 1527, Fernando Cortez returned to Europe from Mexico with treasures from the Aztec culture he found there. Amongst these riches were a group of dancers, musicians, and jugglers who demonstrated their art which was notable for “the perfect unison of their singing and the perfection of their synchronism”. It is well known that within decades of Cortez’s arrival that massive cathedrals were built in Mexico and that European music was performed in them. In this recording we hear selections which are mainly villancicos-strophic songs which employ dance-like triple meter as well as syncopation, and often have texts with lighthearted lyrics. Michael McNab provides detailed information in the liner notes about this exceedingly interesting time of cultural assimilation and demonstrates how each culture (at least in the realm of music) benefited the other.

Danny Lucin’s playing is a joy to hear. His light and clear sound blends perfectly with the voices of Lotte Betts-Dean and Daniel Thompson. The precision of their intonation is notable. The music on this disc is characterized by lively and intricate rhythms which are performed in an exact fashion without any hint of tension. The performers are clearly comfortable in the midst of this complexity. Julian Bain and Glenn Bardwell provide the bottom and as with Lucin’s playing, they are precise in intonation and blend perfectly with the vocalists. The total ensemble shapes phrases as one with delicacy and charm.

Of note is one work by Gaspar Fernandes (1570–1629) entitled “Andres, Where are the Cattle?” The text is seemingly sweet and simple, yet raises an interesting theological question which goes unanswered. An instrumental rendition of another work by the same composer, “For in Such Grace (This Child is Born)” is exquisite in how in its rhythmic complexity such a powerfully reserved concept of grace is understood in the incarnation of Christ. It is wonderful how La Compania is able to present this.  Another instrumental, “Joy of the Heavens” (anonymous) is beautiful yet ominous in the scoring of the lower voices (including shawms played by Mitchell Cross and Brock Imison). Again, the playing is refined: perfect in intonation, balance and blend. The last track is a work by Juan Garcia de Zespedes (ca. 1619­–1678) “The Night is Beckoning” which celebrates the birth of Christ by beginning with a slow section which is reminiscent of “Lo, How a Rose” and then breaks into a festive section in which Lucin’s improvisation captures the tremendous joy of Christ’s birth.

This recording is a delight. The combination of cultural assimilation and excellence of performance which it offers is outstanding.


-- James Miller

Antonio Bertali: Sonatas by William Dongois

Le Concert Brise, Antonio Bertali: Sonatas. Accent recordings (ACC24260), 2013.

Personnel: William Dongois, cornetto (straight treble by Henri Gohin, 2007 after an 18th C. German model; cornettino by Gohin, 2008 and mute cornetto by Gohin, 2007); Stefan Legee, sackbut (Edward Meinl after Drewelwecz, 1595); Anne Schumann, violin; Monika Fischaleck, dulcian; Hadrien Jourdan and Carsten Lohff, harpsichord and organ; Matthias Spaeter, archlute.

Antonio Bertali (1605–1669) was born in Verona and served in the imperial court orchestra in Vienna. William Dongois provides fascinating information in his liner notes about the extent to which he went to assemble music by Bertali for this recording. His work revealed a particularly virtuosic coda for the Ciaconna per violin solo which was found only in a manuscript from a library in Wolfenbuttel. The inclusion of this coda (that it is indeed by Bertali is dubious) is indicative of the “panorama of German music from Austria and Northern Germany” presented on this recording. The thoroughness with which Dongois researches and discussed this is consistent with the performances on the recording.

To say that they are masterful does not begin to give them their proper credit. This music is treacherously technical and is performed with perfection, grace, abandon, yet always with warmth and heart. Dongois employs treble cornetto as well as cornettino yet the difference is imperceptible. Note also that he uses the mute cornetto as well as cornettino on the last track achieving great beauty in his choice of phrases for each. I want to draw particular attention to the Sonata for Cornetto and Organ, in which Dongois’ fabulous technique is paired with his continuous eloquent and gentle phrasing over three octaves. This recording will delight the listener on many levels. I cannot recommend it too strongly.

-- James Miller

Animal Fair by River Raisin Ragtime Revue

River Raisin Ragtime Revue, Animal Fair: Ragtime Music for Children and the Young at Heart.  Recorded July 14-17, 2013.

William Pemberton;  Director and tuba, Clark Irwin; trumpet, Robert Lindahl; trombone, Chaterine McMichael; piano, Rod McDonald; banjo, Andre Dowell; percussion, Priscilla Johnson, Barbara Sturgis-Everett; violins, Susan Schreiber; viola, Irina Tikhonova; cello, Laura Wyman; flute.

This latest recording by the River Raisin Ragtime Revue is a fun-filled CD of 21 Rags and popular dance tunes from the first two decades of the last century along with one original composition, Warthog Sride (2013), by the group’s pianist, Catherine McMichael.  The program captures the spirit of that early period with the ragtime repertoire and its rollicking gaiety, animal sounds, and general silliness. This is all projected with wonderful musical precision and spirited playing. Most of the composers of these tunes have been relegated to obscurity but some of the more well-known musicians include Fats Waller, Joseph Lamb and James Reese Europe.  There are some transcriptions including an arrangement of a 1917 recording of Tiger Rag transcribed by Wycliffe Gordon and an arrangement of Alligator Crawl transcribed from Louis Armstrong’s famous 1927 “Hot Five” recordings.  Some other tunes from this musical menagerie are Rooster Rag, Grizzly Bear Rag, Teasing the Cat, Animal Fair, Elephant Rag, Kitten on the Keys, Honky Tonky Money Rag and many others.

Another fine recording by the River Raisin Ragtime Revue, the listener is offered a view of a simpler and less jaded world. They have happily brought back to life many great rags and other tunes that still have the power to please.

-- Jeffrey Nussbaum

Two Horn Recordings by Anneke Scott

Préludes, Caprices, Fantaisies - Concerts Cachés: Solo Works by Jacques-François Gallay, Resonus, ASCD01, Recorded in the Musée national de Port Royale des Champs, France, on 22-24 November 2010.

Two fine recordings by the natural horn player Anneke Scott were recently released. Scott performs in the UK and continental Europe and she is the principal horn of the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, The English Baroque Soloists, The Orchestra of the Sixteen, Europa Galante, Dunedin Consort and Players, and The King’s Consort.

This recording is a truly impressive collection of unaccompanied works for horn, composed by the celebrated 19th century French natural hornist Jacques-Francois Gallay. The horn used for this recording is a cor solo by Marcel-Auguste Raoux, built in 1823 and virtually identical to the instrument Gallay played. It was loaned by the Bate Collection at the University of Oxford for the recording, and mScott’s playing on the instrument is breathtaking. Her tone quality is perfectly suited to these pieces, typically vocal in character. The even quality of the open and stopped tones throughout the recording is remarkable. Gallay’s pieces are incredibly challenging, especially when played on a natural horn, and Scott performs these pieces with an ease of technicality that will impress and delight lovers of historic brass instruments.

Scott has taken selections from three works by him, the Douzegrands caprices, Op. 32, the Préludesmesurésetnonmesurés, Op. 27, and the Fantaisiesmélodiques, Op. 58. She has selected individual works from each set and combined them to create groups of pieces as short suites, generally following the formula of Prélude-Caprice-Fantaisie. Each group of pieces is designed to be thematically and tonally connected. The result is stunning because each grouping can be legitimately heard as a short suite, and it is possible to imagine Gallay even performing them in this fashion in one of the many salon performances he gave during his illustrious career.

Another recording consisting entirely of solo works for natural horn does not come to mind, and a quick internet search was unfruitful. The thought of a CD of only solo natural horn pieces may seem monotonous, but such thoughts are quickly forgotten because the performances on the CD are so utterly compelling. Scott has put together an incredible CD that repeatedly delights and surprises the listener.


Voices from the Past: Instruments of the Bate Collection, Oxford – Volume 1: horns
Recorded 2011-2013 All Saints (New Eltham), Brunel University Studio, Finchcocks Musical Museum, Luxury Noise, and St. Andrew’s Church (West Dean)
Annake Scott and Joseph Walters (horns), Marcus Barcham-Stevens (violin), Robin Michael (cello), Frances Kelly (harp), Steven Devine (pianos), and James Gilchrist (tenor)

Voices from the Past is the first in a series of recordings being released by the Bate Collection of historical instruments at the University of Oxford. This recording features several fine examples of horns from a range of periods and designs, including hunting hornsdating from the early 1700s, up to valved horns dating from the early 20th century (see listing below for further details). Additionally, this recording features other historical instruments, some of which are part of the collection of the Finchcocks Musical Museum in Kent.

Overall, the playing on this recording is superb. The liner notes included with the CD provide concise and enlightening information about each horn, such as basic technical specifications, regional origin,and maker (when known). Surely it must have been an enormous challenge to discover and adapt to the various idiosyncrasies of each instrument. It speaks volumes to Scott’s abilities and talents that she is able to play such a wide range of instruments with equal expertise. The variety of horns heard on this recording is impressive:


Anon after Handel,

     from the Forrest Harmony for two horns (1733-1744)

cor de chasse by Bennett, London, c. 1700 (Scott)

cor de chasse by Hass, Nürnberg, 18th c. (Walters)

Joseph Haydn,

Divertimento a tre for violin, horn and cello, Hob IV:5 (1767)

anonymous hand horn, German, 18th c.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,

selections from Duos for two horns, KV. 487 (1786)

hand horn by Courtoisneveuaîné, Paris, 19th c. (Scott)

hand horn by Courtoisneveuaîné, Paris, 19th c. (Walters)

Heinrich Simrock,

Thema mit sechs variationen (1805)

cor solo by Marcel-Auguste Raoux, 1823

Ignaz Moscheles,

Introduction et rondeau ecossais, Op. 63 (1821)

radius omnitonic horn by Callcott, London, 19th c.

Franz Schubert,

Auf dem Strom, D. 943 (1828)

hand horn with additional 2 Stölzel valve block by Thomas Key, 19th c.

Camille Saint-Saêns,

Romance in F, Op. 36 (1874)

hand horn by Halari, Paris, 18th c.

Richard Strauss,

Andante, Opus Posthumous (1888)

rotary single F valve horn by Sachsische Musikinstrumenten Fabriken, Klingenthal, early 20th c.

Paul Dukas,

Villanelle (1906)

Périnetvalved horn by Couesnon, Paris, early 20th c.

anonymous French early 20th century straight mute
























As stated, the overall quality of playing on this recording is superb. The production quality is also quite good, though some selections leave me wishing for a better acoustic. On a positive note, many of the selections have the added touch of feeling like live performances, even intimate chamber music performances, because the recordings include the sound of the musicians breathing. Furthermore, in Dukas’s Villanelle, the sound of the valve mechanisms clicking on the horn can clearly be heard during technical passages. These “ambient” sounds add to the overall feeling that the listener is in the company of the performers and lend an authenticity that seems fitting for a collection of recordings on period instruments.

I was a bit disappointed with the sound quality of a few selections on this recording. For example, the recordings of Dampierre’s hunting horn fanfares were apparently done in a church, but the overall sound gives the impression of synthetic reverb, especially in the “echo” passages. This issue with the reverb can be heard on some of the other selections also, namely the Handel, Haydn, and Mozart pieces. However, the sound quality is much more authentic and acoustically pleasing on the other selections on this CD. This fact, when combined with the overall high quality of playing, definitely outweighs my concerns over the somewhat artificial sound of the reverb on the few tracks mentioned above.

Scott’s command of the horn is truly impressive. Her playing demonstrates a wide range of emotion, expression, and varied tone quality. Technical passages flow with ease and grace and louder dynamics possess an appropriate amount of brassiness in the sound. The standout performances on the recording include Simrock’s Themamitsechsvariationen, Schubert’s Auf dem Strom, Strauss’s Andante, and Dukas’s Villanelle. In the Simrock, the balance between the horn and harp is impeccable and Scott’s playing is wonderfully delicate and sensitive. The single action harp (c. 1800) played by Frances Kelly sounds fantastic. This recording was the first time I heard Auf dem Strom performed on a two valved horn, combining the use of valves with hand-stopping. It was very interesting to hear the piece as it most likely was played by Joseph Lewy at its premiere in 1828. The tenor, James Gilchrist, is a musician of the highest caliber. His voice and singing style can be easily compared to the sound and artistry of other fine English tenors, such as Pears, Langridge, or Bostridge. On the Strauss, Scott’s long phrases and lush tone quality are perfectly suited to the Romantic composer’s masterpiece. And  Scott’s performance of the Villanelle sparkles, especially in the passages that require hand stopping and echo effects.

-- Eric Brummitt