Natural in Every Way: Anneke Scott Plays Enlightenment Horn Repertoire
Kuhlau, Beethoven, Danzi: Anneke Scott (horn)and Christopher Williams (forte-piano), Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff, 13.2.2015 (LJ)
Friedrich Kuhlau: Andante e Polacca for horn and piano
Ludwig van Beethoven: Horn Sonata in F major, Op. 17
Franz Danzi: Sonata in E minor, Op. 44.
Speaking of Anneke Scott, celebrated Ukrainian violinist Pavlo Beznosiuk says that “In Anneke Scott we have a ‘natural’ horn player in more ways than one. On an instrument which is perilous at the best of times her technique is such that one is aware only of intellect, musicianship and a glorious pallet of sound. It is a joy to work with her.” Indeed, this worthy praise has not gone unnoticed as in 2007 Anneke was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music. Furthermore, her talents are exploited as a guest principal in numerous orchestras and ensembles worldwide. Most notably, she is principal horn of Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique and The English Baroque Soloists, Harry Christopher’s The Orchestra of the Sixteen, Fabio Bondi’s Europa Galante, Irish Baroque Orchestra, Dunedin Consort and Players, The Kings Consort and Avison Ensemble.
Her performance of Friedrich Kuhlau’s Andante e Polacca, Beethoven’s Horn Sonata in F major op. 17, and Franz Danzi’s Sonata in E minor op. 44, showed Beznosiuk’s praise is certainly not unmerited. Not only did Scott perform with an intelligent blend of grace and directness (which is no doubt difficult to pull off, given the stubbornness of the instrument), but introduced each piece with insightful comments and demonstrations, showing the audience how the natural horn is played. In fact, before the concert commenced, a final year French horn student of the college gave an interesting talk outlining the trajectory of the horn and explained how Giovanni Punto’s (1746-1803) ingenuity extended the capabilities of the natural horn through his hand-stopping technique. The pre-concert talk was well received by those who attended, and is something which I feel ought to be encouraged for future concerts.
A prime mover of Denmark’s Golden Age, German-born Danish composer Friedrich Kuhlau was primarily known for being a concert pianist and composing Danish operas. Interestingly, Kuhlau also introduced many of Beethoven’s works to expectant Copenhagen audiences. Lasting less than six minutes, Kuhlau’s Andante e Polacca is a piece which requires great skill and proficiency. Playing with an astonishing range of dynamics, Scott melted the horn, morphing it into a multitude of different shapes which she deftly carved out of the air. Scott seemed to sculpt sound with Bernini-like precision and polish. Starting as she meant to go on, Scott topped this performance as she played the Allegro moderato of Beethoven’s Horn Sonata in F with touching subtlety. Surprisingly, Beethoven was not well-known outside of Vienna at the time of this composition and after a recital with Giovanni Punto (for whom and with whom the piece was composed) in Pest, a Hungarian critic commented: “Who is this Beethoven? His name is not known to us. Of course, Punto is very well known.” Whilst the tables have turned and Punto has disappeared into near obscurity, this piece remains as a reminder of the fruitful relationship between composer and performer. Though often played with cello and piano, Scott’s recital alongside Christopher Williams on forte-piano, was at once nostalgic and fresh. In the Rondo both Scott and Williams were lyrical and confident in their performance playing with aplomb. Punto’s own Horn Concerto No. 11 in E major is also worth listening to.
Son of the renowned Italian cellist Innocenz Danzi, Franz Danzi composed exquisite works for cello and flute. Sharing the same verve and judiciously punctuated intensity as his cello concerto in the same key, Danzi’s Sonata in E minor for horn and piano is a piece filled with gentle lyricism and fiddly virtuosic passages. Scott remained rooted as she retained a firm (though not restricting) structure to a potentially glib piece. Giving the composition a contemporary feel with her flawless technique and mellow tones, Scott stripped the horn of any brashness often associated with brass instruments.
In this review I must take the opportunity to pass on Scott’s suggestion to her audience members. In one of her eloquent speeches spliced between performances Scott recommended Ferdinand Ries’ Sonata in F major, op. 34 (composed in 1811) in relation to the Beethoven she performed. Interestingly, Ries was taught piano as a child by Beethoven, who encouraged his talent. Subsequently, Ries became indispensable to Beethoven as his hearing worsened, forming an interesting musical relationship which can be evinced from the music. In this sonata the interrelationship between piano and horn is exquisite.
To sum up the overall reception Scott received at the end of the concert, conductor Andrew Manze’s words are most fitting. Commenting on performing with Scott, Manze described her as: “A remarkable musician, authority and expert on a notoriously tricky instrument, Anneke never forgets that performing is about communicating enjoyment and having the courage of one’s convictions. Concerts with Anneke are always a musical adventure!” After an hour in the intimate setting of Cardiff’s Dora Stoutzker Hall with Anneke Scott, the audience felt as though they’d been on an eighteenth century discovery of forgotten and celebrated sonatas for horn and forte-piano. Long may the afternoon concerts at the RWCMD continue.