I first heard of this collection of classic horn recordings through a Naxos podcast. This 2 CD set is a re-release of many historically important recordings by primarily German players, including Wilhelm Bruns, Erich Penzel, Peter Damm, and Hermann Baumann. The title, Die schönsten Hornkonzerte, is translated as “The Most Beautiful Horn Concertos.” All of the tracks are fantastic, and the repertoire includes Mozart’s four concertos and horn quintet, Telemann’s Concerto in D and Concerto in E-flat for Two Horns, Robert Schmann’s Konzertstück, Strauss’s Concerto No. 1, and Handel’s Suite No. 1 from the Water Music.
The Mozart recordings are performed on hand horn by Wilhelm Bruns, along with the Mannheim Mozart Orchestra (Thomas Fey, conductor) and the Quadriga-Quartet. Bruns plays these pieces beautifully, and he isn’t afraid to lean into the covered notes on the hand horn, nor does he shy away from a brilliant, heroic sound, especially in the Rondo movements. The orchestral playing is fantastic, and listeners will immediately notice the presence of the two orchestral horn players in the 2nd and 4th concertos.
Erich Penzel delivers a refined and tasteful rendition of the Telemann pieces – unfortunately the second horn player on the concerto for two horns is not listed – with a lightness of articulation not often heard on other recordings. He is accompanied by the Collegium aureum, Franz Joseph Maier, conductor.
Two of the biggest highlights are Peter Damm’s recording of Schumann’s Konzertstück, with the Staatskapelle Dresden Horn Quartet and Orchestra, conducted by Herbert Blomstedt. There are now so many fine recordings of the Schumann available that this one tends to get lost, but it really is worth having in your library. As one might expect, Hermann Baumann’s recording of Strauss’s Concerto No. 1 with the Cologne Symphony Orchestra under Günter Wand is sublime. Brilliant fortes, liquid slurs, and impeccable phrasing are all present here.
The Handel suite is also noteworthy, performed here by hornists Franceso Roselli and Willy Küchler, along with the Festival Strings Lucerne, conducted by Rudolf Baumgartner. Not surprisingly, what I like most is the presence of the two horn players. They are easily heard at all times, but not overbearing.
Multiple recordings of these works should be in every horn player’s library, and they are available here all in one place.