Review from The Horn Call (journal of the International Horn Society, USA), May 2008

Brahms Trio Prague. Ondřej Vrabec, horn. Artesmon AS 726 _ 2. Timing : 68:11. Recorded September 2007 at Auditorium maximum, Regensburg, Germany. Available at www.artesmon.cz

 

Contents : Andrew Downes : Sonata for Violin, Horn and Piano, Op. 93; Heinrich von Herzogenberg : Trio in D major, Op. 61; Johannes Brahms : Trio in E flat major, Op. 40


Andrew Downes was born in Birmingham, England in 1950. Until 2005 he was Head of the School of Composition and Creative Studies at Birmingham Conservatory, and now works as a freelance composer. His Sonata, written for Brahms Trio Prague, opens with a slow, meditative movement, interspersed with playful passages in which the three instruments chase and dance with each other. The second movement begins with a rocking motif on the piano, joined later by related but secondary melodies on violin and horn. The music gradually becomes more passionate, grandiose, and sweeping over triplet figures. The finale starts with a modal dialogue between the three instruments that becomes increasingly intricate and rhytmic.

 

This is modern tonal chamber music at its finest. The ensemble performs as one player with three different timbres. It is clear they enjoy the work and their performance is superb. Vrabec maneuvres throughout especially the soft high register passages up to b__ with ease, grace and command. Even though his full forte playing is quite well done, it is his delicate and controlled underplaying which is truly remarkable accross the disc.

 

If you have not yet experienced Herzogenberg_s Op. 61 trio, this is your opportunity. Herzogenberg studied with Brahms in Vienna and was later professor of composition in Berlin. It is especially good to have this trio recorded alongside its likely model _ Brahms_ trio. Written in 1889 originally for oboe instead of violin, this edition is round, robust, and full of life. The three movements share many Brahmsian figurations, melodic shapes, rhytmic gestures, and harmonic language, making it audience _ friendly on first hearing. Clocking it at 21 minutes, it is 6 minutes shorter than Brahms_ trio. The 6/8 finale is a terrific romp through the woodlands outside 19th _ century Vienna where no doubt both composers sought inspiration.

 

If there are any readers unfamiliar with the Brahms horn trio, now is the time to be inspired. Its four movements (slow _ fast _ slow _ fast) continue to awe audiences and performers alike. It is a huge work requiring good endurance to bring it off convincingly. It juxtaposes lyric, technical, forte, and piano in a seamless adventure for the three players.

 

I highly recommend this disc for its fresh performances of solid chamber music for horn, violin, and piano by three rising stars of the concert hall. Keep an eye on them _ I see a bright future ahead for the Brahms Trio Prague.

 

John Dressler



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