Although horns made appearances earlier – in the hunting scenes of 17th-century opera, for example – it is usually accepted that Mozart’s works define the repertoire. On this release we’re given a different view, and treated to mid-18th-century concertos from Christoph Förster and Johann Baptist Georg Neruda, along with Georg Philipp Telemann and Joseph Haydn, and a chamber arrangement of Leopold Mozart’s Sinfonia da Camera. We witness the horn’s transition from a stand-in for the hunt to a genuine solo voice.
While such repertoire might lend itself to period instruments and historically informed performance, the recital here is essentially contemporary. Alec Frank-Gemmill is familiar with historical performance and has previously used 19th-century instruments. Likewise, although the Swedish Chamber Orchestra is a contemporary ensemble, conductor Nicholas McGegan is a period performance expert.
Given the strenuous heights to which the ‘stratospheric’ Neruda concerto leaps, the decision to use a modern horn is understandable. Frank-Gemmill brings his talent to works that remain technically complex even with the innovations of a modern horn. The outcome is to make a series of fascinating, early horn concertos accessible to contemporary audiences, providing an insight into the incorporation of the horn into art music and expanding our understanding of the repertoire beyond the otherwise definitive works.