Rhapsodie: Fantasie: Poème

Barry Kilpatrick
American Record Guide (US)

A recent trend is for young horn soloists to make recordings with legendary horn players-turned conductors, as Steven Gross has done twice with Dale Clevenger. Here Ben Jacks, principal horn player of the Sydney (Australia) Symphony, teams with Barry Tuckwell, an all-time great horn player who has been conducting for a good many years. It’s a very good combination.

The album offers a mix of works very well and not so well known. Two of the latter are by Jean-Michel Damase (b1928), who composed his Rhapsodie for Tuckwell in 1986. The 14-minute work is by turns wistful and spirited. The Horn Concerto (1995) opens with an aggressive Moderato, becomes playful in an Andante Scherzando, turns lyrical in an Andante, and ends with a pyrotechnic Allegro Vivace. Charles Kœchlin’s three-movement Poème (1927) is an orchestration of his dreamy, impressionist Horn Sonata, while GWL Marshall-Hall’s Phantasy (1905) is—like all of these works—lovely and often impassioned ... Camille Saint-Saëns’s Morceau de Concert (1887) has a terrific theme, variations that grow increasingly difficult, and a wonderfully contrasting interlude.  And Paul Dukas’s Villanelle (1911) has melodies that soar or scamper, moods that are wistful or exciting, and styles that are both modern and old. It was originally for horn and piano, and Dukas eventually orchestrated it—only to destroy the orchestration later. I don’t know how many arrangements have been made since, but this one by Paul Terracini is the second to come along recently; Ashilld Henriksen played one by Vitalij Boujanovsky (July/August 2007:205). Which is better? Well, because they both use the same notes and strive for the same dramatic effects, they are quite similar. Much more different are the interpretations by soloists and conductors. I like both accounts very much but find fewer quirks and more uniform strength in this one. Fine playing, too, by Orchestra Victoria (Damase and Marshall-Hall) and the Queensland Orchestra.