We frequently refer to “families” of musical instruments, but a good orchestral horn section does in fact become a virtual real family.
The players develop telepathy, they blend their tones instinctively, and they support each other empathetically.
And when all of this has been achieved, it is only then that anyone can even contemplate performing Schumann’s testingly spectacular Konzertstuck for four horns and orchestra, which is why this wonderful work is so infrequently heard.
So Sunday afternoon’s account from the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra and its horn quartet comprising Tim Stidwill, Phil Dawes, Claire Dawes and Chris Collet was certainly something to anticipate, and expectations were fulfilled triumphantly.
Phrasing was passed from horn to horn like a relay baton, chording was blended like that of a well-tuned organ, and the BPO collaborated with obvious and generous pleasure under the attentive baton of Michael Lloyd.
Another unusual slant on the concerto idea came with Berlioz’ Harold In Italy, virtually a symphonic suite for orchestra with obbligato viola. The young Hungarian Eniko Magyar was the delicate, sensitive soloist, her intertwining with the many-layered orchestral textures so beautifully delivered, her tone singingly dark and mellow.
Lloyd balanced this deceptively complex score so judiciously, and the BPO responded with colour and flexibility, even in the final pages where Berlioz chucks in great bucketfuls of the stuff you can find at similar moments in many other of his works.
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