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Penguin Guide, January 2009

The Schubert song, Auf dem Strong (‘Upon the River’), with its horn obbligato is parallel with another late song, The Shepherd on the Rock, with its clarinet obbligato. The pure, fresh-toned soprano, Genia Kuhmeier, matches the ripe-toned horn-player, Wolfgang Tomboeck, in the warmth and imagination of her phrasing. A valuable supplement to the instrumental works illustrating the Vienna horn.




Penguin Guide, January 2009

The distinctively fruity sound of the Vienna horn is wonderfully caught on the superb Naxos disc with its programme perfectly designed to show off the instrument. Wolfgang Tomboeck has been first horn in the Vienna Philharmonic since 1980, and here in all four works he demonstrates what a fine artist he is. The Beethoven Horn Sonata brings a stylish performance, crisp in attack, yet warm too, with the brief central Adagio given the gravity of a funeral march before the sparkling finale. The piano sound is relatively lightweight, which Madoka Inui with her clean articulation turns to advantage in suggesting the sound of a fortepiano.




Penguin Guide, January 2009

The distinctively fruity sound of the Vienna horn is wonderfully caught on the superb Naxos disc with its programme perfectly designed to show off the instrument. Wolfgang Tomboeck has been first horn in the Vienna Philharmonic since 1980, and here in all four works he demonstrates what a fine artist he is. The Beethoven Horn Sonata brings a stylish performance, crisp in attack, yet warm too, with the brief central Adagio given the gravity of a funeral march before the sparkling finale. The piano sound is relatively lightweight, which Madoka Inui with her clean articulation turns to advantage in suggesting the sound of a fortepiano.




Penguin Guide, January 2009

In the Adagio and allegro, Op. 70, the distinctively fruity sound of the Vienna horn is wonderfully caught on the superb Naxos disc. Like the other works, the Schumann is warmly done, with Wolfgang Tomboeck producing the ripest tones and the hunting-horn rhythms of the Allegro have an infectious brilliance and swagger.





American Record Guide, August 2005

"This album is about sound, tradition, expression, collaboration, and great horn literature. Wolfgang Tomboeck, principal horn of the Vienna Philharmonic since 1980, plays the Vienna Horn in F, as opposed to the standard double horn in F and B-flat in use today. Why would he play the Vienna when the double offers greater security in the high register? Because of its burnished tone and its link to the mid-19th Century. Tomboeck might say it is "beloved enemy, a charismatic brute...dangerous and untamable", but we are not aware of his struggles.

The works are masterpieces of Western art music. Tomboeck and pianist Madoka Inui give the Beethoven Sonata (1800) the huge contrasts of fire and grit, tenderness and lyricism it demands. It is the best reading I have heard since Paul Van Zelm's (July/Aug 1999: 255). About Schubert's On the River (1828), Tomboeck says: "We have never understood why Auf dem Strom is always interpreted so hysterically. In our reading the song is between dream and death ... a piece about dying amid beauty, a very Austrian idea." But this account borders on hysteria, too, in the big moments. Tomboeck and Inui sound wonderful all the time, soprano Genia Kuhmeier most of the time, but sometimes her strident delivery is a bit painful.

In Schumann's Adagio and Allegro (1849), with its yearning Adagio and tempestuous Allegro, Tomboeck's strength carries him through the intensity with seeming ease. And then there is the profound Horn Trio (1865) by Brahms, with Tomboeck's son Johannes, a fine violinist. For thorough discussions of this work, complete with recommendations and extensive comparisons, read any of Stephen Chakwin's excellent reviews (most recent, J/A 2002). In my more limited experience, this is among the best I have heard."



Colin Clarke
MusicWeb International, January 2005

"Wolfgang Tomboeck’s extensive notes to this release provide not only an overview of the evolution of the horn in general but an explanation of the precocious nature of the F horn or Vienna horn, with its close harmonics bringing the player into dangerous territory. The nearer the harmonics on any particular fingering, the more chance of the player ‘missing’ – i.e. splitting the note.

The Vienna horn (still in use in said city) remains a noble beast, its tone mellower than the more open B flat/F double. In the wrong hands this tone-quality can be woolly or even cumbersome, seeming to inhibit mobility. Not in the hands, lips, more accurately, of Wolfgang Tomboeck, however, a member of the Wiener Philharmoniker since 1978 and first horn since 1980. Tomboeck’s tone is simply lovely. He combines all the necessary agility with this, plus no mean musicality.

The recital, travelling from Classical through Romantic in stages through to Brahms, begins with Beethoven’s Horn Sonata. Known, I would imagine almost exclusively, to horn players, it is a thoroughly attractive work. Its opening, an unaccompanied, fanfare-like figure based on an F major triad (or C major for a player playing on horn in F) proves just how difficult the most elementary constituents of music can be in exposed circumstances. Actually here it also contains in embryo the seeds of Tomboeck’s playing. Eminently musical, though without losing its annunciatory function, immediately we know this is a player of musicality and focus. Every note is bang in the middle. The players take the exposition repeat, correctly. Pianist Madoka Inui copes well with the tricky piano part, although Naxos’s recording makes the piano sound rather tinny, not doing justice, I am sure, to Ms Inui’s tone.

The tiny slip of a slow movement has both players tiptoeing on egg-shells before the joy that is the concluding Rondo. Suave and witty, there is a nice spring in the step.

Auf dem Strom is one of Schubert’s most inspired Lieder. Less often heard than some of the finest Lieder, it is a work of great beauty. Written for horn in E it has a text by Rellstab. This is helpfully reproduced in the booklet, unhelpfully only in the midst of the German text and even more unhelpfully without translation. Perhaps print out this page: http://209.16.199.17/lieder/get_text.html?TextId=13382. The text is an archetype of parting, longing and death. As Tomboeck says in his notes, ‘A piece about dying and beauty, a very Austrian idea’. Indeed. This performance is marked by a freshness that comes from the pure, pristine voice of soprano Genia Kühmeier. The intertwining of voice and horn lines is miraculous, a seeming free-flow of Schubertian spur-of-the-moment invention. If you don’t already know this Lied, here is as good a place as any to start.

Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro poses real perils for the player. The long line of the Adagio requires real legato and velvet tone; here no problem. However it is the top C (1’34, reached by octave slur) that instils the real fear. Obviously not in Tomboeck. There is a little ‘air’ around his sound that is most appealing, and both players achieve real repose. There is fine cantabile playing from Inui and superbly warm ‘pedal’ notes from Tomboeck. This contrasts with the gritty, confident (nay, swaggering) beginning of the Allegro. The ‘Eusebius’ moments are savoured. Tomboeck, in addition, seems to be able to project just the right amount of strain around his high (played) B flats.

Brahms’ Trio, Op. 40 is a magnificent work. Aubrey Brain (father of Dennis) remains a clear historic recommendation (Pearl GEMMCD0007), yet for a modern version this one ranks with the very best. Brahms’ warm, autumnal voice resonates well with the Vienna horn; the timbre is totally appropriate. Johannes Tomboeck, son of Wolfgang and a violinist with the Vienna State Opera, matches Wolfgang in terms of both warmth and conviction. There is throughout the first movement a sense of a smouldering passion underneath the surface, a passion that should surface in the Scherzo. Here the scherzo is a little under-powered to fully realise this. Better is the Adagio mesto with Inui at her best here. This really does manage to hypnotise the listener. If the finale could be more exciting towards the very end, its hunting origins are nevertheless well preserved.

A triumph; a real disc to be savoured. And most emphatically not limited in its appeal to horn players!"






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9:11:54 AM, 22 October 2014
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