Musical Opinion

Recitals for wind instruments soon run into the problem of the repertoire chosen. For, as in this case, composers who have written one work for the Horn rarely undertake another, with the result that the player is forced into a mixed-bag of composers, not all of whom can be guaranteed to appeal to the same record-buyer. Thus, here we have music by seven composers written over a period of 154 years, during which time, as well as the musical language, the instrument itself has radically changed. With the best will in the world this CD is surely only going to appeal widely to horn players and aficionados of the instrument, of which there is a growing number.

That having been said, the musicianship of this gifted young Maltese horn player is first-class throughout, and he must be commended for including some rarely heard music, most of which is worthwhile. In this regard, the inclusion of Peter Maxwell Davies’ Sea Eagle for solo horn is most welcome, for this is staggeringly well written in Max’s true virtuoso style and exceptionally played.

Charles Camilleri’s recent Fantasie Sonata, written for Cutajar, is a colourful addition to this eclectic composer’s large output. Aspects for horn and harp by Jean-Michel Damase is in the composer’s more peaceable manner; Poulenc’s Elégie in memory of Dennis Brain is a far deeper work. It is both rare and welcome to encounter the 12-year-old Richard Strauss’ Alphorn; no doubting the locale of this work for voice, horn and piano.

The music here is well performed throughout. The recordings are good but at times I should have liked a less close horn sound; Max’s piece calls for a more “open-air” acoustic and occasionally the piano appears a shade backward. The informative notes are by Ates Orga and there are lengthy artists’ biographies. This is a welcome CD and highly recommended.

—Robert Matthew-Walker