From among the enormous choice of horn repertoire available in the early stages of my study of the instrument, my interest was piqued by the very earliest horn music. The music from that era did and still does exert its magic on me due to the pure beauty of its clear and transparent sound world.
One of my first finds on this quest of discovery through the Baroque period was a concerto by an unknown hand, which appears on this album and comes from a very special collection – the ‘Wenster’.
The library at the University of Lund in Sweden contains one of the largest collections of horn music from the first half of the 18th century, under the name of ‘Wenster’. The manuscript contains 18 works, with virtually all of the composers having some sort of connection to the city of Dresden, and it may have been transcribed by a Traveling horn player during a visit to that city.
The six works on this recording are all taken from this collection.
I have been planning this project for some time. Once I was able to realise it with my own choice of musicians, everything fell into place for me. It has been a wonderful experience recording this repertoire with my own colleagues from the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. I invited harpsichordist Siebe Henstra – an authority on this repertoire and a fabulous musician – to join us on continuo. The instruments I play are by the contemporary master horn builder Klaus Fehr. In my opinion he has brought the modern horn to a stage of perfection, which undoubtedly allows me to perform this music to better effect. Our collaboration when we were developing my instruments has also led to a highly rewarding friendship.
The appearance of all of this special horn music in and around Dresden was the result of an unusual combination of propitious circumstances, not least a music-loving aristocracy.
While the first horn players who played in orchestras – or perhaps more accurately in the same room as the orchestras – were players of the hunting horn who had been ‘borrowed’ from local hunts, for instance to play a hunting motif in the familiar 6/8 metre, these horn players rapidly improved their skills by absorbing new knowledge, styles and indeed finding new instruments by Traveling throughout Europe (for instance to the court of King Louis XIV of France). The court in Dresden had a rich and varied musical life in the era when the likes of Johan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745) and David Heinichen (1683-1729) were at work there. They were Traveling musicians who accompanied their masters on foreign trips to centres such as Venice, Vienna, Prague and Berlin, again prompting a healthy exchange of styles and knowledge. One result of this was that musical life in Dresden gained a far-reaching renown.In these early concertos for our instrument, themes tend to be placed in the high register, where the natural overtones are closer to each other, facilitating melodic lines. Changing conical shape and mouthpieces for later, more modern instruments bring their own challenges to this high register.
CHRISTOPH FÖRSTER (1693-1745) Horn Concerto in E-flat major [Concerto ex Dis-dur]*  I. Allegro / con discretione  II. Adagio  III. Allegro
ANONYMOUS (CARL HEINRICH GRAUN?) Concerto in E major [Concerto ex E-dur]*  I. Largo  II. Allegro  III. Siciliano  IV. Allegro
Carl Heinrich Graun (1704-1759) Trio sonata in D major [Trio ex D-dur]*  I. Allegretto  II. Andante  III. Allegro
CARL HEINRICH GRAUN (1704-1759) Trio sonata in D major [Concerto ex D-dur]*  I. Adagio  II. Allegro  III. Largo  IV. Menuet
ANONYMOUS Concerto in E-flat major [Concerto ex Dis]*  I. (Allegro)  II. Largo  III. Allegro
JOHANN JOACHIM QUANTZ (1697-1773) Concerto in E-flat major [Concerto ex Dis]*  I. Allegro  II. Siciliano, Larghetto  III. Allegro