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CD Review

Antonio Rosetti

Concertos for Two Horns

  • Concerto for Two Horns in E Flat Major, Murray C56Q/Kaul deest
  • Concerto for Two Horns in E Flat Major, Murray C57/Kaul III:53
  • Concerto for Two Horns in E Major, Murray C58/Kaul III:51
  • Notturno in E Flat Major, Murray B27/Kaul I:58
Klaus Wallendorf, Sarah Willis, horns
Bavarian Chamber Orchestra/Johannes Moesus
CPO 999734-2 DDD 64:38
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A successful contemporary of Mozart, Antonio Rosetti (c. 1750 -1792) was quickly forgotten after his death. Those who wish to learn more about him have their work cut out for them; there isn't even agreement as to how his name should be given. He is believed to have been born in the region of Bohemia, and his name is somtimes erroneously given as Franz Anton (or František Antonín) Rössler (or Rösler). He was appointed to the court orchestra of a Prince Kraft Ernst zu Oettingen-Wallerstein, first as a bassoonist, and eventually as its music director, a post he held until 1789.

It is likely that these works were written for two accomplished hornists, Joseph Nagel and Franz Zwierzina, who played in the Wallerstein court orchestra in the early 1780s. At the time, horns were valveless, and it was necessary to use stopping, then a very unfamiliar technique, to increase the number of notes available to hornists. Of the four works presented here, one (Murray C56Q) once was thought to have been composed by Michael Haydn. Only one of these works (Murray C57) was printed in the composer's lifetime. In terms of form, melody, and harmony, these works define the word "traditional." Still, they bring a smile to the listener's face.

While reviewing of a disc of Rosetti's bassoon concertos, I wrote that his music lacks a distinctive style. These four concertos don't alter that impression. Haydn and Mozart could have written these works in their sleep, but because Haydn and Mozart were geniuses, that's really not such an awful thing to say. Rosetti doesn't put his foot wrong once in these concertos, and if there's nothing here that is terribly profound, there's also nothing here that is less than expertly written and enjoyable. The mood is upbeat; there's barely even a wistful moment throughout.

Both hornists are members of the Berlin Philharmonic, and they play this technically difficult music with aplomb, teamwork, and sympathy. These are not "authentic" performances – modern valved horns are used by Wallendorf and Willis - but this hardly takes away from their achievement. The accompaniments by Moesus and the Bavarian Chamber Philharmonic are lively and well-nourished. Nice sound too, thanks to Bavarian Radio.

Copyright © 2003, Raymond Tuttle