Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang's father, was a respected composer in his own right, but his career was spectacularly eclipsed by his son's. This disc includes his complete works for horn and orchestra, although the definitions of both "horn" and "orchestra" must be taken somewhat loosely. One piece is for a "shepherd's horn," or alphorn, which plays only four pitches, and the orchestra in several works consists of string ensembles of only four instruments, none of which have the makeup of a modern string quartet. The most famous piece is the Sinfonia da caccia, for four horns, strings, and shotgun. The shotgun is most frequently replaced in performance by timpani, but this recording features what sounds like the real thing, fired at such a remote distance that its blasts shouldn't cause heart failure among the weak. The score also calls for dogs barking and shouts of "ho-ho," which are omitted here, but which the program notes invite the listener to provide ad libitum. The four pieces, written in Leopold's youth, are fine examples of the style galant, graceful, charming, and light, if not particularly deep. Even the Sinfonia for alphorn, while having a certain inevitable timbral rusticity, is elegant and genial. The performances match the refinement of the music. The players (when using orchestral horns) have a full, bright, clean tone. The recordings were made in 1982, before the trend of using natural horns rather than modern valve horns had become de rigeur, so this CD may not appeal to period performance practice purists. Concerto Rotterdam, led by Heinz Friesen, provides a stylish accompaniment. MDG's sound is characteristically immaculate, atmospheric, and realistic, but there is too much separation between the horns and the strings.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins