Encore My Good Sir

Leslie Wright
MusicWeb International (UK)

What an impressive recording!  Hornist Lin Jiang was born in 1986 in Shanghai, China and moved to Australia at age 5.  According to the booklet notes, he is now one of the most sought after soloists in Australia and has performed with several of Australia’s major orchestras.  He was awarded the Barry Tuckwell Brass Prize at the Melbourne International Festival of Brass in 2004 and is a member of the Australian Chamber Brass Ensemble.  He has continued to study with Tuckwell, one of the world’s greatest horn virtuosos.   His pianist on this recording, the Australian Benjamin Martin , also deserves equal recognition and receives shared billing on the CD—something that does not happen often enough.  However, for the most part, this is Lin Jiang’s show.  The program he has chosen demonstrates his versatility as well as his virtuosity.
It’s a nicely varied recital, if with a majority of twentieth-century works.  Lin captures the Romantic ardor of the Schumann staple very well, neither underplaying it nor going over the top, as some hornists are wont to do.  This and the Poulenc, which also receives a superb performance, are the most frequently heard of the works on the CD.  The most substantial selection, however, is arguably Hindemith’s Sonata for Alto Horn that the composer also arranged for French horn.  Lin and Martin do total justice to the work.  There is nothing dry or academic in their fluent, magisterial account.   The three pieces for solo horn are also quite varied … Maxwell Davies’ Sea Eagle gets virtuosic treatment here, but I still find it a difficult work to come to terms with. (See my review of the disc Fantasie: Music for Horn performed by Etienne Cutajar for more on this work.)  On the other hand, the transcription of Bach’s Gigue from his Third Cello Suite, is convincing and well played, even if it in no way replaces the original.  The other works on the CD are all attractive, especially Schuller’s lyrical Nocturne, with its bluesy overtones, and Salonen’s Horn Music I that he composed at the ripe age of 18!  It’s not surprising that these two composers were also hornists.  On the lighter side is the last work on the disc, Encore, My Good Sir, by Lin’s fellow student Thaddeus Huang.  It is a tuneful piece that shows off the horn well.  Finally, the fun and difficult arrangement Dennis Brain made of Marin Marais’ viola de gamba work Le Basque, which became a sort of signature encore piece of Brain’s, is tossed off by Lin as if it were a simple exercise.
In all, a remarkable talent and a delightful disc.