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Heavenly Horn

img  Tobias

Some instruments are more popular than others. If you're trying to set up a rock band: Don't despair fending off all those wannabie-guitarists and good luck finding a bass player! It's the same in Classical music. While universities are flooded each year by hordes of aspiring violinists and nascent piano gods, the harp and the horn have been treated with slight disdain (must have something to do with the letter "h"). Which is both sad and strange, as both have a lot to offer and should have the potential to please many. While the harp is already surging in popularity as we speak, the horn is still slightly lagging behind. Maybe a new CD by ARTS Music could change the situation.

Its simple title: "Horn Concertos". Its content: Works by four composers, who have either remained in the shadows of their contemporaries or lost just a little bit of their popularity in the course of the centuries. Still, they have done a lot for the Horn and are true masters at their trade. Leopold Mozart doesn't even need introduction: The father of Wolfgang Amade, he will be remembered mostly for his relentless education, shaping his child into the prodigy the world will celebrate this year. Still, he was far from being an untalented and frustrated musician himself and some of his pieces are still played today, without relying entirely on the fame of his son. Friedrich Witt, meanwhile, was a renowned 18th century composer, who shot to temporary fame in the 1950s. An old manuscript had long been considered an excellent early Beethoven composition and the piece had even been performed live under that name. It later turned out to have been written by Witt, who was suddenly elevated to the ranks of the big. Unfortunately, it hasn't helped his works to be performed more regularly. And the same fate has hit Franz Xaver Pokorny and Franz Anton Rössler, whom even the internet has not a lot to say about.

In the hands of Hermann Baumann, these long gone masters turn to life again. Baumann is, without any doubt, one of the leading players on his instrument. During his decade-spanning and succesful career, he has toured the world, recorded some of the finest CDs in his field for Philips and championed his instrument wherever he went. A total of fifty concertos have rotated in his repertoire and he has gained proficiency in all the different kinds of horns (an issue which he dealt with in a German TV documentary). Apart from his live activities, he has also given masterclasses and taught as a "regular" professor in Essen for thirty years. Unfortunately, this kind of busy schedule has not gone by unnoticed and he suffered a stroke in 1993, which tied him to his home for about two seasons. From then on, he has taken it easier, without compromising too much, though. "Horn Concertos" captures him in full flight, with the Concerto Amsterdam supporting him perfectly. As the label puts it: "It is not so much Baumann’s stupendous technique that makes his art so fascinating but rather his dynamic adaptability, his unique art of the nuances and the deep research of characters in his performance."

We don't suppose this CD will cause a mass storm of horn classes at colleges or enter the top 10 of the pop charts. But what it could do is draw just a little bit of attention to an instrument that so many love when they do hear it in concerts and which has been sorrily neglected for far too long. And for all those wanting to learn an instrument and are fed up with everyone taking up the violin and the piano: With the horn, you're sure to find a place in your local ensemble!

Homepage: ARTS Music
Homepage: Hermann Baumann at Dispeker
Source: Article on Friedrich Witt at Günther Emig (German only)

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