I bought Mozart: Complete Works for Horns and Orchestra (Naxos) with Michael Thompson (horn and director) and Bournemouth Sinfonietta for almost nothing. Another reason for buying it was the fragments (reconstructed by John Humphries) and single movements that makes this recording Mozart’s complete works for horn and orchestra. Now I can say it was worth every penny (yes, I bought it in a british web shop) and more.
The recording didn’t appeal to me in the first listening, thou. It sounds different from the other recordings I’ve heard of the concertos. For starters, the horn sounds a bit confined; it’s like there’s too much emphasize on the lower frequency range. Or maybe it’s just the horn which has such a sound signature. Then there’s the balance between the horn and the orchestra. I like it when the strings are well heard in the fast movements, like in the recording with Brain and Karajan on EMI. Just listen to the final movement of the 3rd concerto—sublime! In the Naxos recording the horn sometimes makes the details of the string playing difficult to hear. It’s clearly that the horn is in focus, but I think it would make a more interesting recording if it shared a bit more of the spotlight.
If I were pedantic, I would hold against the recording that the horn doesn’t always hit the purest notes. But this is a very minor issue that doesn’t spoil my experience of the music. It only adds to the feeling of live performance and spontaneity.
Quite early in the last movement of the 3rd concerto there’s half a bar which I haven’t heard in other recordings. It’s a nice touch, especially if you like to hear different versions of great works.
The highlights of this disc are the reconstructed movements done by musicologist John Humphries. I recommend to check out the recording, both for this man’s work and for the recording’s overall qualities. It’s good music well presented.