Rhapsodie: Fantasie: Poème

John C. Dressler
The Horn Call (US)

0I find the Romantic-era harmonies and somewhat quirky nature of Jean Francaix’s music very satisfying and Damase’s music is written in a similar vein. His Concerto and Rhapsodie here receive their premiere recording. The Concerto is a delightful three-movement work with an abundance of beautiful melodic elements coupled with a rhythmically playful spirit.

The Rhapsodie, composed before the Concerto and written for Barry Tuckwell, was ‘…inspired by the ocean and atmosphere of the coast…’ In the program notes for its premiere the composer discusses his one-movement free-form as depicting the ‘…passing of a day: peaceful for dawn and dusk with a more animated central section,’ and whose ‘extremely difficult’ solo part exploits Tuckwell’s virtuosity, making the most of the instrument’s ‘heroic character’ and its ability to play everything ‘from long melodic lines to passages of the greatest rapidity’.

Charles Kœchlin was a composition student of Massenet and Fauré at the Paris Conservatoire around 1890. It was the music of Fauré that caught Kœchlin the most. The first two movements of his Poème were ‘set in the atmosphere of the Romantic forest of Weber or Heinrich Heine’ and the finale has a ‘certain marine ambience’. The work was premiered by Edouard Vuillermoz in 1927. It is a beautiful work with lush Romantic harmonies and exquisite melodic lines.

Arranger Paul Terracini has produced a new orchestral version of the accompaniment to Villanelle. It is noticeably different from that featured on the recording of the work by Herrmann Baumann. This one has many more flourishes of colour—in particular the upper strings, harp and flute add more body to the accompaniment. The glockenspiel creates a great splash of colour on the final page of the solo part. Specifically I admire the en dehors quality juxtaposed by the lovely turn of phrase Jacks performs here. This has always been one of my favourite works for horn of the 20th century and it receives an inspired and committed performance here.

While I enjoy listening to Michael Thompson’s fine recording of the Morceau, it has always seemed a bit hurried to me. Jacks’s reading of the work is more relaxed (or perhaps ‘deliberate’) which gives listener and performer time to let the lines grow and die down. The orchestral accompaniment adds so much over the usual piano accompaniment version often played. I like the rallentando at the end of the first movement and Jacks’s then picking up the tempo just enough at the opening of the second movement to move the music ahead nicely. He also renders the final triplet section with beauty, ease and flawless technique.

New to me on this recording is the Marshall-Hall Phantasy of 1905. Much like the Damase works, there are some terrific lush harmonies here, sometimes conjuring a sub-tropical flavour. The work demonstrates late-Romantic lyricism influences by perhaps Wagner and Brahms but with hints of Impressionism that I think Respighi would have enjoyed. At over 10 minutes, it is not a brief work. The low B is beautifully set up and played here to close the first sub-section of the one-movement work. The London-born composer was appointed professor of composition at the University of Melbourne in 1891. This work also receives its premiere recording on this disc. I hope Jacks will try to have Phantasy published—it currently resides in the National Library of Australia.

Ben Jacks was appointed principal horn of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in 2001. He has performed with every orchestra in Australia and has a busy career performing both solo recitals and with brass quintets.