MOZART: Works for Horn and Orchestra (Complete) (Bournemouth Sinfonietta/ Michael Thompson/ Michael Thompson/ Mike Purton) (Naxos: 8.553592)
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Leopold Mozart was already making a significant contribution to music as a performer and composer when his son, Wolfgang Amadeus, was born on January 27, 1756. His precocious talents were quickly noted, and he received a thorough musical training from his father. At the age of six he made his debut as a keyboard player in Munich, and a few months later in Vienna. Paris and London fell under his spell, and by the time he was ten he had a catalogue of works to his credit, many already published. He had composed three operas at the age of twelve, even more remarkable was the fact that one was highly dramatic, the second was a comedy, and the third a light opera.
He was also twelve when he made his conducting debut, and the Archbishop of Salzburg gave him the appointment of Konzertmeister. At the age of 14 he wrote a further dramatic opera, 'Mitridate, re di Ponto', for Milan, which had twenty performances under his baton. His fortunes faltered between the age of 16 and 22, the death of his mother being a contributory factor. He returned to Salzburg, and soon afterwards settled in Vienna.
His marriage to Constance Weber only encouraged him to live a life far beyond his income, though in contrast to popular belief, his appearances as pianist and conductor, together with money from benefactors and his compositions brought him a substantial income. He continued to make tours but was suffering from ill-health in his thirty-fourth year, and became suspicious of everyone. This feeling was made all the more sinister when he received a commission to write a Requiem Mass for an unknown buyer. He felt it was to be his own, and so it proved to be, dying before completion in December 1791.
His catalogue of music was vast, including 15 masses, 41 symphonies (depending upon which you regard as his), 25 keyboard concertos, six violin concertos, 26 string quartets, 20 completed operas and numerous solo instrumental works.
The music Mozart wrote for french horn and orchestra probably tells us a great deal about his personality. It was composed for a friend, Joseph Leutgeb, who was a member of the court orchestra with his father. They were, therefore, works that had no commission and were not for one of Mozart's patrons. The result was that they had no importance to him, and when something more rewarding arrived, he would put them to one side. In 1781 he made the first real effort, drafting the first movement (K.370b) and a finale (K.371), the horn and first violin parts being completed. Mozart's son gave away separate pages of the manuscript to friends as mementos of his father. That they survived is incredible. Having abandoned this concerto it was another two years before he tried again, this time with a completed work (K.417). All the remaining horn concertos were not published in Mozart's lifetime, and for this disc John Humphries, who adds detailed notes with the disc, has created new versions, believing that we have never heard the works as Mozart originally intended. Indeed with the exception of K.447 and K.495, Humphries is to shed new and scholarly light on all the music, including his researches into the probability that the horn concerto that has always been regarded as his first, was in fact his last, and could well be largely the work of the well-meaning Sussmayer (who completed the Requiem) who found an early attempt at a concerto and 'completed' it.
The disc also includes another attempt at a concerto, probably dating from 1785, which, after a fine orchestral introduction, Mozart abandoned shortly after the entry of the soloist.
Michael Thompson is generally regarded as today's leading British horn player. At the age of 21 he had already clinched the position of leading horn in the Philharmonia Orchestra. It was a position he held for ten years during which time he performed with all the great conductors of our time.
On leaving the orchestra to follow a solo career, he also reformed the Barry Tuckwell Wind Quintet, after Tuckwell retired. Under its present name, the Michael Thompson Wind Quintet, it has become one of the most famous in Europe.
The Bournemouth Sinfonietta was founded in 1968. Although controlled by the same organisation as the Bournemouth Symphony, it leads a totally independent life. Providing music in venues and geographical areas unable to accommodate a full symphony orchestra, it has become a vital part of music in the South of England. It has recorded for a number of labels, and in 1993 embarked on a series for Naxos which has included music by Stravinsky, Britten, Saint-Saens, Bach, Holst, Delius, Bartok and Walton.
The recording was made in the Wessex Hall, Poole, England in December 1995.
This disc will be controversial, as it offers a new look at well established concertos, and offers for the first time the opportunity to hear ALL of the music Mozart wrote for horn and orchestra in editions that return as closely as modern research can achieve to Mozart's original intentions. In that respect there is no competition.
Humphries is a highly respected exponent of the French horn. He has made a detailed study of the Mozart concertos leading to these new editions recorded for the first time.