Wednesday 19 November 2014

Very fine playing from Samuel Seidenberg and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sebastian Weigle in horn concertos by Franz and Richard Strauss on a new release from Pan Classics

Franz Joseph Strauss (1822-1905) was a virtuoso horn player as well as an accomplished performer on the guitar, clarinet and viola. He was principal horn player of the Bavarian Court Opera for more than 40 years and a teacher at the Royal School of Music, Munich. He is best known as the father of the composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949) but in his prime the conductor, Hans von Bülow (1830-1894) called Franz Strauss ‘the Joachim of the horn.’

Pan Classics have released a new recording of Franz Strauss’ Horn Concerto in C minor, Op.8 coupled with his son, Richard Strauss’ two horn concertos played by Samuel Seidenberg (horn) and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sebastian Weigle


PC 10312

Franz Strauss’ immense ability as a virtuoso horn player is shown by the demands put on the soloist in his own Horn Concerto in C minor, Op.8 (1865). The Allegro opens with an attractive theme for the orchestra, perhaps a little four square but appealing nevertheless. Horn player, Samuel Seidenberg brings a lovely mellow tone with a fine range of textures. There are some terrific dynamic passages for the horn before we are led into the flowing Andante with a lovely gentle orchestral rubato beautifully done by Weigle and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. Seidenberg brings out all of his lovely tone in this attractive music. The Tempo primo builds from the orchestral opening to a richly flowing movement, ably orchestrated and with some pretty tricky horn passages brilliantly brought off by Seidenberg with lovely rasping ends to the notes.

This is not a great work but an enjoyable opener for the Richard Strauss works, especially as finely played here.

Richard Strauss’ Horn Concerto No.1 in E flat major, op.11 (1882/83) was written when the composer was just 18 years of age and, as such, is no more a great work than his father’s but is attractive and provides a great vehicle for these fine players. The Allegro has orchestral opening statement that is followed by a horn motif taken up by the orchestra. When he returns, Seidenberg brings a beautifully smooth, refined tone. There are some really fine dynamic moments for the horn with terrific textures. The lovely chamber like middle section is beautifully balanced with the horn player showing a natural sensitivity. Seidenberg is terrific in the intricate passages before leading to the mellow Andante with both soloist and orchestra providing some lovely sounds, anticipating the mature Strauss. There is some fine control of horn dynamics and more lovely sonorities. Weigle and his Frankfurt players provide some fine moments in the purely orchestral passages.

After the orchestral lead in, Seidenberg really races ahead in the Allegro showing his tremendous agility. There are many subtleties in the gentler passages from both soloist and orchestra who manage to provide a gentle glow before a terrific coda.

Richard Strauss’ Horn Concerto No.2 in E flat major came towards the end of his career. Completed in Vienna on the 28th November 1942, the concerto was a subsitute for his aborted tone poem Danau. Strauss wrote that the third movement Rondo had 'come out particularly well.'
The Allegro, for all its autumnal flavour, seems to recall in its opening, his first oboe concerto, but soon develops its mature, mellifluous nature so well captured by Seidenberg. Here we have a freer flow, a wonderful confidence, with Weigle and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra bringing out so many fine details. There is a gentle playfulness apparent as Seidenberg’s plays around the Straussian sweep of the orchestra before concluding in nostalgic calm.

The Andante con moto is exquisitely played with some beautifully mellifluous playing from Seidenberg whose horn blends beautifully with the orchestra. The Frankfurt players are really on the ball picking up on the tempo change before the lovely quiet coda.

The Rondo – Allegro molto brings a fine light touch to the horn part responded to so well by the orchestra. There are lovely light textures as we are led through Strauss’ little rhythmic variations with a playfulness mixed with a gentle flow before a very fine coda.

Samuel Seidenberg is a very fine horn player indeed and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra under Sebastian Weigle are wonderfully responsive. These players bring some fine qualities to these works on a disc that will bring much pleasure. They are well recorded in the hr-Sendesaal, Frankfurt, Germany and there are informative booklet notes.

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