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Mozart: The Horn Concertos (DECCA The Originals)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 31 January 2014
In the gnostic Gospel of St Thomas, JC says to his buddies, "If those who lead you say: Behold, the Kingdom is in heaven, then the birds will beat you to it. If they say unto you: It is in the sea, then the fish will beat you to it. But know this: the Kingdom is within you," and that is especially true since the 27th of May 1783 when "W(olfgang) A(madeus) Mozart took pity on Leitgeb, donkey, ox and fool in Vienna."

The Marriage of Figaro, Brahms declared, embodies a perfection that was beyond even Beethoven. Other nominations come to mind. One candidate - an outlier - is K 417 - the so-called Second Horn Concerto. Defiant of the Law of Diminishing Returns, I never tire of it. This side of Boot Hill, how is such perfection possible? Is it the most melodious composition in existence? To my mind, it contains enough thematic material to power a dozen avant-garde works and Boulez's IRCAM bunker to boot. It makes one wealthier than any tycoon or money-bags.

Barry Tuckwell recorded his first survey of the horn concerti with Peter Maag and the London Symphony Orchestra in the early '60s. The substantial fragment K 494a is also included - alas, K 371 does not make an appearance. Buttressed by a 24-bit remaster, the recording is spectacular for its age. I thoroughly enjoyed this disc. Tuckwell has a sumptuous "Bruckner, here I come" tone. Maag justifies his reputation in Mozart - his rhythms in K 514 are more jagged than a hunting knife. K 447 is a corker. For all it opulence, the performance of K 417 falls short of the best. In the finale, Mozart juxtaposes mock-heroism from the soloist - what fun - with causticity from the orchestra. Tuckwell in particular could be more boisterous and unbuttoned: he plays it too soberly.

This is a minor criticism. This is a great disc. It does not displace Horn Concertos 1-4 / Quintet nor Concertos for Horn 1-4 in my allegiances but the harvest is rich and labourers are few.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
These recordings from 1959 and 1961 pre-date the period instrument generation, or revolution as some would describe it. They initially came into direct competition with Alan Civil's fine accounts which were much admired at the time. Tuckwell had a cleaner, less 'fat' tone than Civil's and this was complemented by a leaner sounding accompaniment provided by Maag and a slightly reduced LSO. Peter Maag had a reputation for sympathetic Mozart and Mendelssohn conducting at that time. It retained the grace of a Beecham but was more sprightly.

What we have here therefore is a markedly graceful account of these concertos with none of the emphasis on the hunting nature of the final movements that we hear today. Slow movements are slightly slower than today's accounts and the whole effect is of gentlemanly grace and gentleness. The balance of the horn is also set less forwardly than many of the more modern accounts and this fits the style of the performance very well.

Listening to this recording again today, I was struck by how very attractive the whole thing is and how it also has a slightly old fashioned sense of gentility about it. This is not the only way to play the concertos and Tuckwell himself took a far more aggressive approach on his later recording/s. If I wish to hear a more up-beat account I would not choose the later Tuckwell, whom I find too heavy and aggressive, but would choose any of the following - Jonathan Williams or the two horn players of the Orpheus orchestra for modern instruments or Ab Koster with Tafelmusik for a period performance. When I want to hear Tuckwell it is this first version that I always choose.

The re-mastered recording needs some additional comment as follows:

The mastering at 24 bits (dynamic range) and 96 kHz (frequency range) may need some explanation to be more fully understood. Early digital recordings were made on digital recorders with only 16 bits and 48 kHz of potential information. Analogue recordings from the 1950's onwards had wider dynamic and frequency ranges than that and which were therefore beyond the range of those early digital recorders. Furthermore, the early CD format, unlike LPs or reel to reel tape, was not capable of storing more information. All this explains why collectors using the top end of playback equipment were so often unhappy with digital sound. In summary this was simply a case of convenience over quality.

Nowadays it is possible to digitally record at higher ranges of 24 bits and 96 kHz and also for discs, especially SACD, DVD and Blu-ray, to hold all the extra information of the original analogue recording. This is also why a re-mastering, such as we have here, from original wide ranging analogue tapes to modern wider ranged digital media, is so successful.

The result on this disc is the expected increased 'presence' with added dynamic and frequency response compared to the original CD releases. It is possible that by comparing original LP discs with these new CDs, as some reviewers have done, that the LP may still have the advantage, but that is not the real world for most purchasers and not one that I have investigated.

I would suggest that this disc still deserves to be considered as a contender for purchase. It offers gentler and more graceful accounts than many with just a touch of a bygone age about it. The re-mastered recording quality is excellent for all the reasons described above.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 January 2013
I chose this recording because of Barry Tuckwell's expertise. It is an excellent introduction to both Mozart and Barry Tuckwell.I frist heard this music over 60 years ago, it made a great impression on me then and this rendering met all my expectations.
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on 28 April 2015
Beautiful collection by the Master horn player.
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