Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A New Recording of Brahms' Horn Trio with Nelsen, Bae and Kudo

When I was the managing-contributing editor for a series of cultural publications in the '90s, I used to give prospective writer-researchers a proofreading test as part of their interview. In it I had Brahms' name spelled wrong. I was a little shocked at how few candidates corrected that one. And quite pleased when there were those that DID. I came to realize that Brahms' music was not frequently a part of the educated young person's background by then. And of course I don't suppose it is now, either.

But I love Brahms. I have for some time. At this point, I've repeatedly appreciated and basked in the sublimity of most of his music and I am far the greater for the experience. For whatever reason, though, his Horn Trio in E-flat Major, Opus 40, has not been in my listening cycle. There's no good reason why that is so, except perhaps the piece demands a good French horn soloist and so there have been over the years fewer recordings of it. So I missed out. Until now, that is, with the release of a performance of same by Canadian Brass horn virtuoso Jeff Nelsen with Ik-Hwan Bae on violin and Naomi Kudo, piano (Opening Day 7384).

First off I found that the Trio is an exceptionally lyrical work. The opening Andante is ravishing, and played by the trio at hand with a gentle passion that seems totally fitting. The following Scherzo has plenty of stately brio on this recording and, I might add, some royal-hunting-horn-style panache emerges from Maestro Nelsen with an unbridled joy. At least that's what I hear. The Adagio has a lovely cantabile quality that the trio brings out quite well. And then the spirited Finale has exceptional brio and the kind of spirit that might remind one of the opening movement of Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream. It's a wonderful piece of music, wonderfully played. Jeff Nelsen sounds especially wonderful, too.

As an added bonus the group performs a trio adaptation of Mozart's Horn Quintet, K. 407. It tops off the program on another bright note.

So, dear readers, I now have a world-class performance of Brahms' Horn Trio. It is a very happy confluence of circumstances that enables me now to pull out this CD at will and play it when the mood strikes. And the mood will strike pretty often, I should think. Highly recommended.

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