About this Recording
8.557747 - SCHUMANN: Konzertstuck, Op. 86 / HAYDN: Symphony No. 31, 'Horn Signal'
English  German 

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Konzertstück for four horns, Op. 86
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Concerto in F major
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Overture in F major
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Symphony No. 31 in D Major ‘Horn Signal’

The present recording features original compositions written for horn quartet and orchestra by some of the greatest composers who ever lived. All four works showcase the melodic capabilities of the horn in the upper clarino register and make references to the horn’s historical rôle as a signaling instrument. Additionally, Schumann’s work explores the possibilities of the newly developed valve horn, which revolutionised the instrument not long after its first appearance in the concert hall. The American Horn Quartet here presents these four well-known, virtuosic works on one disc.

Robert Schumann’s Konzertstück, Op. 86, for four horns and orchestra, was written in 1849 and first performed in February 1850 at the Leipzig Gewandhaus. It was written during a period of physical and psychological well-being for the composer while he was in a frenzy of creative activity. In addition to his Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70, for horn and piano and Five Hunting Songs, Op. 137, for horn quartet and male chorus, Schumann completed nearly forty works in 1849 alone. His Konzertstück is one of the first large-scale works to exploit the capabilities of the valve horn, which was becoming more popular than the hand horn in Germany at this time. A virtuosic showpiece for the horn soloists, for many years this work was considered unplayable. This recording features the American Horn Quartet playing the original 1849 edition, which differs from the wellknown 1851 edition most notably in the inclusion of several additional high concert ‘A’s.

The Concerto in F major of George Frideric Handel is one of the works written at the time of the War of the Austrian Succession from 1745 to 1748. Written around 1746, the opening is remarkably similar to the famous overture to the music for the Royal Fireworks, which was performed in 1749 to celebrate the signing of the Peace Aix-la-Chapelle, the treaty that officially ended the War. The stately opening leads into a lively section graced by sparkling ornamentation in this version by the American Horn Quartet.

Georg Philipp Telemann’s Overture in F major was written while he was in Hamburg, where he served for the greater part of his career as the music director of Hamburg’s five main churches and as Kantor of the Johanneum Lateinschule. Many of Telemann’s works have descriptive titles and imitate natural sounds and daily life, as in this Overture. In fact, Die konzertierendenden Frösche und Krähen (The Concert of the Frogs and Crows) may be the most outrageous example of his imitative pieces with its extreme use of chromaticism. The Overture was first performed on 4th June, 1725 to celebrate a visit by the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg to Hamburg. The Alster or Alster Lake is a large artificial lake located in the heart of Hamburg. The Overture may have been originally performed outdoors, making the use of four horns well suited to the horn’s historical association as an outdoor signaling instrument. Folk influences are prominent in this work with drones imitating a hurdy-gurdy or bagpipe while everyday life can be heard in the echoes across the Alster, the mechanical Hamburg carillons, and the croaks and clucks of the frogs and crows.

Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 31 in D major ‘Horn Signal’ was composed in September 1765, shortly after Haydn’s appointment to the position of Vice- Kapellmeister to the Esterházy family. The piece was undoubtedly written specifically for the virtuoso horn section that was at Esterházy in 1765, which included Carl Franz, Thaddäus Steinmüller, Johann May, and Franz Stamitz. Haydn wrote several works featuring the horn around this time, probably for one of these players, including two horn concertos (the one known today as No.1 was written in 1762, while the other was written around 1761-65. No. 2 is considered spurious) as well as the Divertimento a tré for horn, violin, and violoncello (1767) and the Cassation for four horns and strings (c. 1763).

Lin Foulk

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