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Happily, no such sonic limitations afflict the 1935 electrical recording of the first Brandenburg Concerto. This, of course, is an ensemble piece, where the two horns (Francis Bradley plays the second) feature prominently, but as part of a team of instrumentalists. I found this performance delightful, with some wonderfully felicitous playing to enjoy: delicious oboe from the young Evelyn Rothwell and some marvellous solo violin from Adolf Busch, with Brain and Bradley adding both majesty and jollity to the proceedings. Of course, this performance is very much of its time -- much more sedate in the allegros than we would hear today, and with discrete piano continuo. But everything is in scale, and it is difficult not to succumb, both to Bach and to some wonderful playing [listen -- track 3, 0:02-1:48].

Nobody is likely to seek out this disc as a first choice for any of the works here; the sonic and stylistic expectations of today are very different, but for those of an enquiring disposition, there is much to treasure in terms of artistry, and much to be learned about the development of musical interpretation and style. Such listeners will find much enjoyment, and gladly own that, no less than today, music making of the highest calibre was alive and flourishing in the hands of great musicians, all those years ago.

Presentation is somewhat minimalist, but includes a splendid photograph of Aubrey Brain playing a formidable-looking instrument, and there are some informative notes from Steven Ovitsky which give useful information on the provenance and restoration of these recordings.

Copyright © 14 March 2004 David Thompson, Essex UK


Great Horn Players in Historic Recordings - Aubrey Brain

CD 104 Mono REISSUE 68'00" 2003 Sotone Historic Recordings

Aubrey Brain, horn

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No 1 in F BWV1046 (1935 Columbia; with Adolf Busch, violin; Evelyn Rothwell, oboe; Francis Bradley, horn; The Adolf Busch Chamber Orchestra); Mozart: Horn Concerto No 2 in E flat K417 (1927 Edison Bell; with the Royal Symphony Orchestra; Joseph Batten, conductor); Glazunov: Reverie Op 24 (1927 Edison Bell; with Marion Brain, piano); Brahms: Horn Trio in E flat Op 40 (1926 National Gramophone Society; with Spencer Dyke, violin; York Bowen, piano). Transfers, restoration and mastering by Steven Ovitsky


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