Horn Trios - Baborak, Nasturica, Shimizu
Classical - Chamber
Brahms, Czerny, Schumann: Horn Trios
Radek Baborak (horn)
Lorenz Nasturica (violin)
Kazune Shimizu (piano)
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Review by John Broggio - February 7, 2008
I've seen a fair few discs featuring Radek Baborak on this site and wondering why, ordered this disc to sate my curiosity (not having previously owned the Brahms Trio on SACD).
Having received the disc, I fully understand the reasons for Octavia (via their Cryston label) to record this fine horn player so frequently. The musicianship is outstanding and has a warmth and humanity that many cannot begin to imagine on the instrument. Perhaps if I was more familiar with horn players in Europe, one shouldn't have been so surprised as Baborak is one of the principal horn players for a certain German orchestra resident in Berlin - and he fully sounds it here.
The pianist is unfamiliar, as is the violinist Lorenz Nasturica. Whilst I have not consciously heard Shimizu before, he is clearly a very good player on the evidence of this disc and I would welcome the opportunity to hear him in other repertoire. Nasturica is a very fine violinist and having done a little digging on the internet, it comes as no surprise to find him at the helm of one of Germany's better ensembles (the Munich Philharmonic - music director currently Christian Thielemann).
As to the music, the Schumann and Brahms are familiar fare for chamber music fans yet the Czerny will be new to all but the most avid of his fans (how big a number after the piano exercises that are inflicted upon piano students is questionable!) Czerny's trio opens the disc and is a pleasant but largely unmemorable work in 3 movements. Originally conceived as a conventional piano trio, Czerny sanctioned the horn replacing the cello - Baborak has adopted the original edition to make it more faithful to the cello line (something presumably that Czerny felt was impossible in his lifetime). The dexterous finger-work of Shimizu is not merely quietly brilliant but also lovingly shaped in a way that makes the most of the slender melodies. Nasturica and Baborak are quite comfortable taking a relative back-seat (in much the same way that Mozart's trios require) and make the most out of the slim pickings in their parts without ever obscuring the musical line that almost always lies with the pianist.
Moving on to the Schumann, here it is presented in the version for Horn and Piano (again sanctioned by the composer) which apparently was how it was first performed in private. Here Baborak rightly comes to the fore and Shimizu matches every phrasing and tempo gesture with a wonderful ease that is not always present in chamber music making. Whilst the dynamic range is not as wide as could be imagined, that is perhaps due to players response to the intimate acoustic that the musicians are recorded in rather than the players abilities.
Of course, the masterpiece here is the Brahms trio. Specified for a natural horn (rather than the more versatile and dominating instrument we commonly hear today), Baborak uses his hand to keep a lid on the dynamics and allow for a natural balance between the three protagonists. Tempo choices are safe, which allows for sensitive rubato and lovely dynamic and tonal shading from all concerned. As is often the case, the horn player is rather restrained until the final rondo but Baborak is far from reticent; rather he plays with exquisite taste. The others are scarcely less refined and whilst this may not have the cache or exhilaration of some starrier ensembles in this repertoire, one feels that the players are in the room playing in someone's house just for friends and is really very beautiful music making.
The recording is well balanced but the microphone placing is either too close or the acoustic chosen is too intimate for a full bloom to be heard on the tonal qualities of the instruments; this also has the additional unwanted effect of restricting the dynamic range slightly - not ideal but this should not put off anyone who wants a really enjoyable account of the Brahms in fair, modern sound.
Copyright © 2008 John Broggio and HRAudio.net