TURNER: Take 9 Antiphonal Fanfare. Farewell to Red Castle. Barbara Allen. Ghosts of Dublin. EWAZEN: Grand Canyon Suite. BERNSTEIN-DECK: Candide Overture. BRAHMS-ELKJER: Hungarian Dance No. 5. DESMOND (arr. Custer & Myers): Take Five. GERSHWIN (arr. Yates): I Got Rhythm.
The American Horn Quartet and Horns of the New York Philharmonic
MUSICIANS SHOWCASE MS 1089 (M) (DDD) TT: 46:25
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MATTHIEU: Concerto de Québec. ADDINSELL: Warsaw Concerto. GERSHWIN: Piano Concerto in F.
Alain Lefèbre, pianist; Québec Symphony Orch/Yoav Talmi, cond.

ANALEKTA AN2 9814 (F) (DDD) TT: 70:13
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The American Horn Quartet (David Johnson, Charlie Putnam, Kerry Turner and Geoffrey Winter) already has recorded a half-dozen CDs in a wide range of repertory, all of which can be ordered directly from them (www.hornquartet.com). Now there is this new CD, a joint project of AHQ and five horn players from the New York (Phil Myers, Jerome Ashby, Erik Ralske, Allen Spanjer and Howard Wall) , which began as discussions between members of both groups in 1996. After many scheduling problems a program was selected, which was not easy as repertory for multiple horns is quite limited. Kerry Turner, a member of AHQ had already composed three pieces, Farewell to Red Castle, Barbara Allen and Ghosts of Dublin, and for this recording he wrote Take 9 Antiphonal Fanfare scored for all nine players. Eric Ewazen's fifteen-minute three-movement Grand Canyon Suite won't be mistaken for Grofé's, but it surely contains properly majestic sounds. Bernstein's Candide Overture is played in an arrangement originally for tubas made by NYP tubist Warren Deck, the Brahms is a standard encore piece in an arrangement by Robert Elkjer. The CD concludes with each group playing one of their American-based encores: Take Five for the NYP soloists, I Got Rhythm for ABQ.

Horn playing throughout is positively dazzling, particularly in the Candide Overture, a tour-de-force of horn virtuosity. Recorded at Recital Hall, Purchase College of the Conservatory of Music in Purchase, New York, in August 2002, the sound is outstanding, brilliantly capturing the glistening sound of massed horns. Gregory K. Squires produced and engineered this recording; he has done a magnificent job.

Of interest to many musicians might be the fact that this is a production of Musicians Showcase Recordings, a company formed to give classical artists a way to create and release a CD that then can be offered for sale. Through their professional services, a recording can be made from step one, produced, manufactured and distributed. For more information contact Musicians Showcase Recordings (http://www.msrcd.com). Take 9 is also available directly from them.

Analekta's CD appeared promising as it contained three 20th Century piano concertos, one a world premiere recording. The newcomer is Concerto de Quebéc by Andre Mathieu (1929-1968) who, very optimistically I think, was considered by some "the Canadian Mozart." He was a prodigy at the keyboard, performing his own Concertino No. 1 with orchestra when only seven. For a short time he studied in New York, and in Paris with Honegger but never progressed enough in his studies to produce formally coherent large-scale composition. Rachmaninoff reportedly pronounced him "a genius, more so than I am." After a promising beginning to his career, Mathieu fell into oblivion, turned to alcohol and died in poverty before he was forty. Most of his music consists of short piano pieces; the Concerto is perhaps his longest work, completed in 1943 when he was a mid-teenager. Alain Lefèvre has championed Mathieu's music and prepared the performing edition of the concerto heard on this recording. CD notes suggested Mathieu's style "was inspired by Grieg, Puccini, Korngold and above all, Rachmaninoff." Lefèvre also states the solo part is "prodigiously difficult....studded with densely packed chords, and requires an enormous stretch for the hands," also referring to the supposed strong influence of Rachmaninoff. There are three movements, the first and last are allegros, the second an andante. I can't understand why Lefèvre is so entranced with this concerto. It is surely pleasant to hear, but undistinguished in melody, form and development, rambling on and on, with nothing memorable happening. Yet it would be the only reason to have this CD, as this performance of Addinsell's familiar Warsaw Concerto is understated (just listen to the Leonard Pennario version!), and Gershwin's even more familiar concerto is cautiously played. There can be a great deal of excitement in the outer movements of this concerto—just listen to Oscar Levant, Earl Wild, or André Previn to hear the best.

Analekta's engineering is excellent.

R.E.B. (December 2003)