Alec Frank-Gemmill is making a point with this recording. For many horn soloists, Mozart’s concertos are the earliest works in their repertoire. Frank-Gemmill contends that there was plenty of good material that predated them.

Frank-Gemmill opens with a 1740 concerto by Christoph Förster. Although primarily an organist, Förster wrote about
50 concertos. He was also a younger colleague of Telemann, and his music is similar in style.

The Horn Concerto in D major by Telemann follows. Compared to Forster’s light and breezy work, it seems somewhat more formal and elegant.

Also included is a Sinfonia da Camera by Leopold Mozart. It features an interesting interplay between the horn and the first violin. Frank-Gemmill’s trills are immaculately executed, beautifully ornamenting the melody.

The Horn Concerto No. 1 by Haydn is technically “before Mozart,” as it dates from 1762. And yet stylistically it’s closer to Mozart than any of the other works. The extreme dynamic shifts of Sturm und Drang are in play. That, plus the expanded range of the horn makes this an ideal work to end the program. Frank-Gemmill’s codas are impressive — check out the harmonics at the end of the first movement!

Yes, none of these horn concertos is by Mozart. But as Frank-Gemmill demonstrates they hold up quite well on their own merits.

Before Mozart: Early Horn Concertos
Christoph Förster: Horn Concerto [No. 1] in E flat major
Georg Philipp Telemann: Horn Concerto in D major, TWV 51:D8
Johann Baptist Georg Neruda: Horn Concerto in E flat major
Leopold Mozart: Sinfonia da camera (Sinfonie in D major,
VII:D5)
Joseph Haydn: Horn Concerto No. 1 in D major, Hob. VIId:3

Alec Frank-Gemmill, horn
Swedish Chamber Orchestra; Nicholas McGegan, conductor
BIS Records 2315