Alec Frank-Gemmill

Before Mozart: Early Horn Concertos

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Mention the words "horn concerto," and the name of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart will immediately spring to mind, since his four horn concertos are high points in the genre and universally popular. Yet before him, a number of composers dabbled at producing concertante works for the horn, laying out the form that Mozart would later perfect. Virtuoso hornist Alec Frank-Gemmill is the soloist on this hybrid SACD on BIS, and he is joined by Nicholas McGegan and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra in thoroughly engaging performances that show how appealing these second-tier horn concertos can be in the right hands. Included here are concertos by Christoph Förster, Georg Philipp Telemann, Johann Baptist Georg Neruda, and Franz Joseph Haydn, as well as a delightful work by Leopold Mozart, the Symphony in D major, which has the intimate feeling of a divertimento. While these rococo works are cheerful and uplifting in their major key tonalities, they bypass bucolic scene painting and the expected hunting calls, and tend more toward flowing melodies that reflect the Empfindsamer stil. Altogether an elegant album, this 2018 release offers terrific multichannel sound with a fine balance between the horn and the small orchestra.

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