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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger



Antonio ROSETTI (c.1750-1792)
Concertos for Two Horns

Concerto in E flat (Murray C56Q) [16.27]
Concerto in E flat (Murray C57) [15.15]
Concerto in E (Murray C58) [19.06]
Notturno for 2 flutes, 2 horns and strings in E flat (Murray B27) [13.23]
Klaus Wallendorf; Sarah Willis (horns)
Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie/Johannes Moesus
rec May 2002, Studio 1 des Bayerishes Rundfunk
CPO 999 734-2 [64.38]



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This well-filled disc is a delight from start to finish. Anybody who has drooled over a performance of Mozart’s great horn concertos is going to love the works of Rosetti. A somewhat obscure figure of Bohemian origin, Rosetti Italianised his name and went to work for the Prince Kraft Ernst of Oettingen-Wallerstein as a servant and double bass player in 1773. By 1785 he was the conductor of the court orchestra and had built it up to such a reputation that it was mentioned in the same breath as the famous band from Mannheim. In 1785 Rosetti took a similar post in another small German court, that of the Duke Freidrich Franz 1 of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in Ludwigslust. Unfortunately he died just three years later at the age of 42. In these small principalities of 18th century Germany, music was one of the most important symbols of prestige and there was considerable competition to acquire the finest musicians for the court orchestras. Haydn’s position with the Esterhazy’s is the most famous example, but there were many such bands, many of apparently outstanding quality.

In the seven concertos for two horns that Rosetti composed he made full use of the facilities at his disposal. In this case we (unusually) can identify the actual horn players for whom the works were written; Joseph Nagel (c.1752-1802) and Franz Zwierzina (1751-1825), both Bohemians who joined the court orchestra of Oettingen-Wallerstein around 1780 at impressively high rates of pay. The virtuosity that Rosetti makes the horn players show is stunning. To think that this was originally all done on valveless horns is almost inconceivable.

While the key of these works does not vary much (three in E flat and one in E) the variety that Rosetti provides in timbre, texture and harmony results in no sense of monotony, any more than it does in Mozart’s horn concertos. The classical style just seems to be so apt for the expressive melodic capabilities, and the powerful, jaunty, huntsmen’s gallop of horns. The soloists in this recording, both with years of orchestral experience behind them, rise admirably to the challenges presented in these concertos. The blend between the two horns is sonorous and the intonation always immaculate. They are by turns, sombre, grand, bombastic and then mellifluous, introverted and delicate, and the sheer speed of some of the passagework is impressive, to make a significant understatement.

Rosetti’s orchestration is standard for the time, but exploits the richness of timbre available from both oboes and orchestral horns to back the soloists. The Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie plays with a verve and sprightliness that matches the soloists. The winds are prominent, but not obtrusive and the strings play with a consistently agile sense of rhythmic flexibility and well-placed phrasing – so important in the music of the late 18th century. It is so easy for the slow movements of this type of repertoire to become nothing more than a melody accompanied by a dirge. Johannes Moesus is clearly well aware of this and keeps the orchestral balance and texture forever changing and the blend of the string sections is never anything less than perfect. It really is very good chamber orchestra playing. There is a clear sense of zeal for this engaging music – perhaps not surprising given that Moesus is president of the International Rosetti Society (www.rosetti.de) and artistic director of the Rosetti Festival Days, but he is clearly onto a winner.

There are informative booklet notes about Rosetti and his background, good illustrations and well-designed, modern packaging. The engineers of Bayerisches Rundfunk have done a superlative job in capturing the vast range of pitch and volume of the solo horn parts and the recorded sound is clean and bright, without being top heavy or brittle. This is an undoubtedly joyous recording and is easily recommendable. No listener could be disappointed with music as engaging as this, performed as well as this is.

Peter Wells



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