The Horn in Romanticism - Nilsen, Fossheim
2L 2L-162-SABD (2 discs)
Classical - Chamber
Gounod: Andante from 6 pièces mélodiques originales pour cor à piston et piano
Czerny: Andante e Polacca
Franz Strauss: Nocturno
Schumann: Adagio and Allegro
Richard Strauss: Andante
Steinar Granmo Nilsen, historical horns
Kristin Fossheim, fortepiano
The sound of the horn epitomized stormy emotions for composers of Romantic music. Robert Schumann is said to have spoken of the horn as being the orchestra's soul. For poets, the horn's sound was a symbol of the soul's longing. For horn players, however, what was at stake for much of the Romantic period was the soul of the horn itself, for it was an instrument that faced experiment and change occasioned by new technology, notably the invention of the valve. This recording explores and illustrates this important era in the evolution of the horn.
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- Emmanuel Chabrier: Larghetto for Horn and Orchestra (1875)
- Carl Czerny: Andante e Polacca for Horn and Piano in E major
- Paul Dukas: Villanelle for Horn and Piano (1906)
- Charles-Francois Gounod: 6 pièces mélodiques originales pour cor à piston et piano
- Camille Saint-Saëns: Romance for Horn and Piano, R. 189 Op. 67
- Robert Schumann: Adagio & Allegro for Horn (or Cello, or Violin) and Piano, Op. 70
- Franz Strauss: Nocturno, Op. 7
- Richard Strauss: Andante for Horn and Piano in C major, TrV 155
Review by Adrian Quanjer - July 4, 2022
It’s always a pleasure to comment on a release that most people will surely like. The more so, when I won’t have to decide whether it is better or worse than the same played by other musicians. Not that there isn’t any competition. In the world of high-resolution there are, mainly, but not exclusively, other dedicated recordings: A Noble and Melancholy Instrument - Frank-Gemmill / Beatson and Rhapsodie: Fantasie: Poème - Ben Jacks. However, not with the same pieces on one single SACD and not always played in its original fashion. Besides and in all honesty, having to choose often leaves me with a feeling of unjustly applied subjectivity. Why? Differences between equally qualified players are usually very small indeed and in the absence of solid reasoning, rating one above another can be a matter of mere personal appreciation. So, I decided to get myself off the hook and take things at face value. Listening -in all subjectivity- to these fine musicians, I find it hard to believe that anyone can do it better. Enveloped in beautifully shaped and wide, typical 2L surround, hornist Steinar Granmo Nilsen ‘instrumentalist of the year 1999’ draws the right kind of romantic sound from his instruments (natural and valve), whereas Kristin Fossheim is an ideal partner on the fortepiano.
I should add that I came across this SACD only recently when searching for something uplifting in these dire times. Of all the brass the horn comes closest to the soul. Playing this instrument requires a ‘soul mate’ musician to convey the warmth and lyrical emotion hidden in the scores of the various pieces selected for this release. If I had to take out some of the highlights, then it is not the oh-so-very popular Schumann: Adagio & Allegro Op. 70 (the actual hi-res count stands at 17, including cello and violin versions), but Chabrier’s ‘majestic’ Larghetto. Nilsen demonstrates how he can handle the natural horn (Marcel-Auguste Raoux, naturhorn, Paris 1836), colouring and shading his part of the score with varying intensity and magistral technique. And also, the lovely Notturno by the other Strauss (Franz) played by Nilsen with thrilling charm and wholly convincing command of his instrument (Leopold Uhlmann, wienerhorn, Wien ca. 1900). Impressive! And so is, by the way, his partner, Kristin, creating at the piano the perfect backdrop for Steinar Granmo to shine.
You may have other preferences, of course, like Richard Strauss ‘Andante’, presented here in a dreamy slow motion. It is, in any case, a worthy close to a worthy release.
Recorded in the Sofienberg Church, Norway, June 2019, in the usual 2L ‘Immersive Sound’ concept. For those who prefer ambient surround, I suggest sitting a little closer up-front. However, with our garden doors open and sitting outside with a glass of cool white wine, it was as if both were playing inside ‘as if it were real’. Indeed, all the ingredients are here to literally or metaphorically immerse the listener in romanticism. So, why not indulge? Enjoy!
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