Domenico Ceccarossi, Ten Caprices

Here’s another interesting LP I discovered in our music library, a recording of Domenico Ceccarossi (1910-1997) playing his Ten Caprices for solo horn [the picture at left is taken from the back of the record jacket, Musical Heritage Society, MHS 3815].  For more information on this Honorary IHS member, you can check out the following pages on the IHS website. First is his biography page, which lists his professional playing  positions (Radio Orchestra of Milan, Academia di S. Cecilia Orchestra, Radiotelevisione Italiana), teaching positions (Conservatories in Rome and Pesaro), and his many other contributions to horn playing in the 20th century.  The other page is a part of Pete Exline’s 1964-65 Survey of European Horn Playing Styles, which has been recently uploaded to the IHS website. The page on Ceccarossi includes pictures of his mouthpiece, horn, and embouchure (upstream), as well as information on his instrument, a “Rampone-Cazzani with slide valve change.”  Although I had heard of him before, I wasn’t aware of these compositions or the recordings, both of which are fantastic.  The Caprices are brief, virtuosic, and quasi-improvisatory, sounding to my ear almost like modernized versions of Gallay’s Unmeasured Preludes.  From the start I was impressed with Ceccarossi’s seemingly effortless technique, full of style and bravura.  Here’s a brief quote about his recordings from his IHS Honorary Member biography.

Ceccarossi recorded much of the horn literature, almost all made from start to finish without dubbing, and many are live performances. If his tonguing seems heavy and his tone thin, this may be attributed to the recording environment; however, he never missed a note and his high register sings out clearly. RCA recorded The Art of Domenico Ceccarossi under more favorable conditions, and this recording stands as an excellent representation of his technical and musical prowess. Harold Meek observed that Ceccarossi’s technique never fails to serve the music.

I’m not sure if this LP has been reissued on CD, but it’s definitely worth a listen.  The Caprices themselves are still in print, I believe, as they are listed in the online catalog of Robert King Music.   Here’s a brief excerpt from the Caprice No. 1, Allegro agitato ma non troppo, with the composer performing.

See what I mean about style and bravura?  There is a different sound concept at work, for sure, but I can always be won over by a convincing musical statement, which Ceccarossi delivers.  If you liked this recording, you might be interested in the YouTube video embedded below.  Sadly, the entire clip is in Italian with no subtitles, but it appears to be some sort of interview with Ceccarossi.  After a brief demonstration, he performs the third movement of Mozart’s Concerto No. 3, K. 447 with piano accompaniment.

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