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ClassicsOnline Home » SCHUMANN: Konzertstuck, Op. 86 / HAYDN: Symphony No. 31, 'Horn Signal'
The present recording features original compositions
written for horn quartet and orchestra by some of the
greatest composers who ever lived. All four works
showcase the melodic capabilities of the horn in the upper
clarino register and make references to the horn’s
historical rôle as a signaling instrument. Additionally,
Schumann’s work explores the possibilities of the newly
developed valve horn, which revolutionised the
instrument not long after its first appearance in the concert
hall. The American Horn Quartet here presents these four
well-known, virtuosic works on one disc.
Robert Schumann’s Konzertstück, Op. 86, for four
horns and orchestra, was written in 1849 and first
performed in February 1850 at the Leipzig Gewandhaus.
It was written during a period of physical and
psychological well-being for the composer while he was
in a frenzy of creative activity. In addition to his Adagio
and Allegro, Op. 70, for horn and piano and Five Hunting
Songs, Op. 137, for horn quartet and male chorus,
Schumann completed nearly forty works in 1849 alone.
His Konzertstück is one of the first large-scale works to
exploit the capabilities of the valve horn, which was
becoming more popular than the hand horn in Germany
at this time. A virtuosic showpiece for the horn soloists,
for many years this work was considered unplayable. This
recording features the American Horn Quartet playing
the original 1849 edition, which differs from the wellknown
1851 edition most notably in the inclusion of
several additional high concert ‘A’s.
The Concerto in F major of George Frideric Handel
is one of the works written at the time of the War of the
Austrian Succession from 1745 to 1748. Written around
1746, the opening is remarkably similar to the famous
overture to the music for the Royal Fireworks, which was
performed in 1749 to celebrate the signing of the Peace
Aix-la-Chapelle, the treaty that officially ended the War.
The stately opening leads into a lively section graced by
sparkling ornamentation in this version by the American
Georg Philipp Telemann’s Overture in F major was
written while he was in Hamburg, where he served for
the greater part of his career as the music director of
Hamburg’s five main churches and as Kantor of the
Johanneum Lateinschule. Many of Telemann’s works
have descriptive titles and imitate natural sounds and daily
life, as in this Overture. In fact, Die konzertierendenden
Frösche und Krähen (The Concert of the Frogs and
Crows) may be the most outrageous example of his
imitative pieces with its extreme use of chromaticism.
The Overture was first performed on 4th June, 1725 to
celebrate a visit by the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg to
Hamburg. The Alster or Alster Lake is a large artificial
lake located in the heart of Hamburg. The Overture may
have been originally performed outdoors, making the use
of four horns well suited to the horn’s historical
association as an outdoor signaling instrument. Folk
influences are prominent in this work with drones
imitating a hurdy-gurdy or bagpipe while everyday life
can be heard in the echoes across the Alster, the
mechanical Hamburg carillons, and the croaks and clucks
of the frogs and crows.
Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 31 in D major ‘Horn
Signal’ was composed in September 1765, shortly after
Haydn’s appointment to the position of Vice-
Kapellmeister to the Esterházy family. The piece was
undoubtedly written specifically for the virtuoso horn
section that was at Esterházy in 1765, which included
Carl Franz, Thaddäus Steinmüller, Johann May, and Franz
Stamitz. Haydn wrote several works featuring the horn
around this time, probably for one of these players,
including two horn concertos (the one known today as
No.1 was written in 1762, while the other was written
around 1761-65. No. 2 is considered spurious) as well as
the Divertimento a tré for horn, violin, and violoncello
(1767) and the Cassation for four horns and strings (c.
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SCHUMANN: Konzertstuck, Op. 86 / HAYDN: Symphony N...