Louis-Philippe Marsolais

L'Héritage Beethoven

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Consisting entirely of music for horn and piano, this little disc can't hope to sketch out the heritage of Beethoven. But it does more than you might think, for Beethoven's early chamber pieces, now among his least well known, were among the most enthusiastically played in his oeuvre during his lifetime. One of these was the Sonata in F major for horn and piano, Op. 17, composed for a local virtuoso named Giovanni Punto (or Jan [Vaclav] Stich, which means Giovanni Punto) in 1800 and, according to Ferdinand Ries, encored in full when it was performed with Beethoven himself at the piano. This and most or all of the other pieces on the album were composed for a natural horn but are ably performed here on a modern instrument by Quebecois hornist Louis-Philippe Marsolais, with pianist David Jalbert. Within its limited confines, the program gives an unusually detailed feel for the shape of Beethoven's shadow. The fun is primarily in the other three pieces on the album, which are each successful and unsuccessful in different ways. The sonata by Ries closely imitates Beethoven's both in general mood and in a number of local details, all without capturing any of its tension. Carl Czerny, in his Andante e polacca for horn and piano, Op. posth., picks up on the expansive horn part Beethoven wrote for himself and gives the horn and piano an unusually competitive dynamic within the context of the early nineteenth century. The most attractive pieces are the two works by Ignaz Moscheles, the Thème varié du Feuillet d'Album de Rossini and the Introduction et Rondeau Écossais, Op. 63, both of which manifest an understanding of Beethoven's structural thinking rather than simply his mood: the variations are broken up into sections that generate harmonic tension, and the little Scots rondo has something of Beethoven's way of extracting the maximum motivic content from short dance themes. Altogether an interesting item for anyone focusing on the early nineteenth century scene.

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