CD Reviews: Songs of Love, War and Melancholy, Anneke Scott (horn), Steven Devine (piano) and Lucy Crowe (soprano). Resonus Classics, 2015.


The third instalment in Anneke Scott’s series of works by the French natural horn player and composer Jacques-François Gallay presents a thrilling programme of operatic fantasias & songs.

These fascinating and unique works mix incredibly virtuosic music with beautifully lyrical melodies deeply influenced by Gallay’s position as solo horn of the Parisian Théâtre Italien. For this final volume in the series, Scott is joined by the celebrated pianist Steven Devine and renowned soprano Lucy Crowe.

In this recording, Anneke Scott performs on a natural horn (cor solo) by Marcel-Auguste Raoux dating from 1823 (Loaned with kind permission by the Bate Collection, University of Oxford), while plays a grand piano by Érard, from 1851. (Loaned with kind permission by the University of Birmingham).

CD REVIEW Songs of Love, War and Melancholy: The Operatic Fantasias of Jacques-François Gallay

Brian Shaw, Nineteenth-Century Music Review, Volume 14, Issue 2 August 2017 , pp. 265-267.

Jacques-François Gallay (1795–1864) was a virtuoso horn soloist who became principal of the Théâtre Italien in Paris in 1825. Recognized by his contemporaries as one of the preeminent performers of his generation, Gallay served as professor of horn at the Paris Conservatory from 1842 to 1864 and was made Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 1845. His immense talents notwithstanding, he also had the benefit of living in a time and place laden with opportunity. Gallay composed pieces heavily influenced by his experience in the Théâtre Italien, which entered its heyday during his tenure. It is also important to note that at this time of expanding possibilities in instrument technology, performers undertook the task of composing for their ever-changing equipment, as they were often the first to truly understand its capabilities. Although Gallay did not embrace the development of the valve in his own playing, he brought the art of manipulating the horn through hand stopping to a new level, as demonstrated in his method, études, caprices and concert compositions, such as the fantasias featured on this disc.

Anneke Scott, the natural horn soloist who performs on this disc, is in many ways Gallay’s modern-day counterpart. She is principal horn of many of the top ensembles in the British Isles, including the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, The English Baroque Soloists, Orchestra of the Sixteen and others. She has recorded several solo discs of early horn repertoire and has most recently championed the work of Jacques-François Gallay in both her performances and enviable scholarship, both of which are on display in this recording. Scott’s collaborators are also impressively credentialed. Lyric soprano Lucy Crowe has performed all over the world – from the Metropolitan Opera to Covent Garden – and is in constant demand with period ensembles throughout Europe. Pianist Steven Devine is harpsichordist with the London Baroque and performs regularly with a number of early music groups in England. He is also an in-demand conductor of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century opera, and is Professor of Fortepiano at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire, London.

Scott’s command of the natural horn is breath-taking; her control, especially evident in rapid slurred passages, is a triumph over the nature of the instrument. Trills – accomplished on a natural horn solely by manipulation of the airstream and embouchure – are impeccable, and her intonation – so perilous on an unvented brass instrument confined to the overtone series – is flawless. Most impressive about this recording is the simple fact that Scott’s stunning musicianship shines through the most fiendishly difficult regions of this repertoire such that, through her mastery, the non-brass-playing listener is allowed to abandon all concern for the instrument’s treacherous nature. A performance of this calibre is the very definition of virtuosity.

One of the highlights of this recording is ‘Fuis, laisse-moi’ from Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux. Here, the horn blends with and matches Lucy Crowe’s voice so beautifully that one might swear at times there are two singers. This selection rivals – in terms of both beauty and exquisite musicianship – the elegant collaboration between trumpeter Niklas Eklund and soprano Susanne Rydén in their 1995 recording of Handel’s ‘Eternal Source of Light Divine’ from the Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne. Scott’s performance here also brings to mind a contemporary review of Gallay himself: ‘more a human voice than a brass instrument’.

For this project, Scott performs on a natural horn made by Marcel-August Raoux in 1823, on loan from the Bate Collection at the University of Oxford. Raoux, who played second horn to Gallay in the Théâtre Italien (and replaced him upon his retirement) was the son of Lucien-Joseph Raoux, who made a horn for Gallay in 1821, which Gallay’s daughter bequeathed to the Paris Conservatoire after his death. Although also an original instrument, the 1851 Érard piano used for this recording is of somewhat later vintage. It, too, has a historical connection to the early performers: Frédéric Kalkbrenner, who collaborated often with Gallay, was a noted proponent of Érard pianos. It is thus a rare treat to have two accomplished artists playing instruments comparable to those the composer and original performers of these works would have used.

Timbral variety – in both the horn and piano – is another delightful feature of this recording. This feature presents itself from note to note as Scott varies the amount of stopping used to control pitch and vary colour. The period piano, while less varied in timbre from register to register than a fortepiano, also exhibits a spectrum of tonal possibility, revealed beautifully by Devine. The album is recorded intimately, as if the listener were attending a recital in a small yet flattering hall, with the horn’s presence fairly forward on the soundstage and the piano placed a bit in the background. Scott’s liner notes are impeccably researched and show sensitivity to the programming of repertoire, historical research and thoughtful storytelling. Replete with quotations from periodicals of the era and detailed analyses of each work, her accompanying essay helps to bring the entire recorded performance to life. Overall, this collection – the performances, programme, instrument choice, liner notes, even the album artwork depicting the Théâtre Italien during Gallay’s heyday – provides a delightful and comprehensive representation of the zenith of this repertoire, presented at the highest levels of musical, technical and scholarly sophistication. A listener whose ears are open to the artistic and timbral possibilities of an instrument taken to its absolute peak during a period of technological upheaval cannot find a better reward than this fascinating recording.

Read the full review here: 

Historic Brass Society, December 2015
Eric Brummitt

Anneke Scott, Songs of Love, War and Melancholy: The Operatic Fantasies of Jacques-François Gallay, Resonus Classics (RES10153), 2015.

"Gallay’s fantasies on the operatic favorites of his day should be essential repertoire for any student of the horn. The intense vocal quality of the melodic lines contained in these fantasies is better than any of the vocalise studies I have played, even those of Giuseppe Concone. Certainly, the fact that these fantasies were composed by an expert hornist contributes to their superiority. But these fantasies also contain some of the most naturally “vocal” lines I have ever heard composed for the horn. Perhaps I am biased being a fan of the Italian repertoire, but other horn players will be hard pressed to disparage the quality of Gallay’s writing in these fantasies.

In this recording, Anneke Scott’s playing is exquisite. Her tone quality, expertly executed ornamentations, and agile hand-stopping technique make these performances truly remarkable. The piano playing by Steven Devine is perfectly balanced to Scott’s horn and together they produce hair-raising dynamic contrasts and bombastic finishes. Lucy Crowe’s voice is perfectly suited to the bel canto style of these settings and together with Scott’s horn the listener is treated to some fine duets between the soprano and the horn.

The fantasies Gallay composed that are represented on this recording are based material composed by the top Italian composers of the day: Bellini, Donizetti, and Mercadante. Gallay was the solo horn of the Théâtre Italien, beginning in 1825. The repertoire he played during his tenure there understandably became the inspiration for these wonderful compositions.

This recording includes extensive liner notes that are both enlightening and well written (they are downloadable by following the publisher’s link above). The importance of these fantasies as part of Gallay’s repertoire is discussed at length in the liner notes, along with the social and performance contexts in which these pieces would have been heard. Scott has dedicated a great deal of time in recent years to recording the music of Gallay. The liner notes she has written for this recording display her immense respect for the music, Gallay, and her world-class scholarship."

Read the full review here.

The Horn Call - Journal of the International Horn Society
46.1 (Oct 2015)
Daniel Grabois

Many horn players know Jacques-François Gallay (1795-1864) only as a composer of horn etudes. He was, in fact, a virtuoso horn player and a prolific composer. Gallay's life spanned a fantastically rich period in the history of opera, and much of his playing took place in Paris opera pits, where he performed great new works of Italian opera. At the time, opera was so popular that many composers wrote fantasias on famous opera themes for solo instrumentalists, to be performed in smaller salon settings - the public at the time was hungry to hear these melodies. Gallay wrote many such works, as represented on this disc.

Let us begin with the obvious: Anneke Scott is an amazing natural horn player. She recorded the disc using a Raoux "cor solo" made in 1823, almost two hundred years ago. Listening to the disc, I asked myself over and over again, "How does she do that?" She has incredible facility with her hand horn technique. Her attacks are clear, she can jump all over the range, her sound is sweet, and her dynamics are sensitive. She is always in tune with the piano (in this case, an Érard instrument made in 1851).

Listening to these pieces on the natural horn is a revelation. Key changes are extremely obvious, because the horn part goes from mostly open notes in the home key to mostly closed notes in the new key. These color changes provide a layer of narrative unavailable to performers on the valved horn. To listeners not used to the natural horn, please give it a chance. It can take a while to get used to the colors and to the sound of stopped notes in the middle of a line, but Gallay puts this palette to great effect.

Young horn players may be puzzled, when working on their Kopprasch, to see the occasional etude filled with ornaments. Those etudes are preparation for works like these pieces by Gallay. This music is filled with trills, turns, and every kind of ornamentation you can imagine, plus virtuosic cadenzas, often performed at breakneck pace. Then the tempo slows, and long, sinuous lines unfurl. The hand horn technique often helps create a portamento effect that connects the notes of the line.

All of these pieces would work superbly on a recital on the modern horn as well. Some are for horn and piano and some add a soprano. The music is utterly ravishing, and the performance from all three musicians on the disc is excellent. This disc is a fine introduction to some little-known repertoire, superbly played.

Horn Matters, 30th of July 2015
John Ericson

Brief reviews: Recent recordings by Anneke Scott, natural and piston horns

Getting it out right away, I love these recordings and basically everything about them. The performances are excellent, production and packaging excellent, and that they are mostly recordings of works that are pretty much not known today that deserve to be better known is also outstanding.

The second CD is titled Songs of Love, War, and Melancholy, the operatic fantasias of Jacques-François Gallay. Gallay is best known to horn players today for his etudes and unmeasured preludes, but he composed and arranged a great deal of music for a variety of ensembles. This recording features full fantasias on themes of operas (mostly Donizetti and Bellini) performed by horn and piano, and also three shorter numbers with soprano. A great recording that will be perfect for anyone to reference who is thinking of performing one of these fantasias today, but also just great background listening music as well. 

Horn players with an interest in opera or Gallay certainly will want to obtain this CD.

Read the full review here.

Planet Hugill - 27th of July 2015
Robert Hugill

Dazzling technique, bags of charm - Songs of Love, War and Melancholy

Jacques-Francois Gallay operatic fantasies; Anneke Scott, Lucy Crowe, Stephen Devine; Resonus Classics 


Bravura techniques galore in this disc of early 19th century music for natural horn

Whilst it is possible to imagine this music played on a modern valve horn, to hear it on such a period instrument is a revelation particularly in the hands of a player like Anneke Scott who seems to revel in the challenges which that hand-horn techniques bring. This is real virtuoso stuff and throughout the disc her playing sparkles and she brings the right sort of virtuoso brilliance to the music. Gallay's compositions are not the most sophisticated, but they have great charm yet rely on the performer's secure technique to bring them off. Here Anneke Scott and Stephen Devine dazzle and charm in just the right way. But there is a strength and a boldness to the playing too, with Anneke Scott bringing a real muscularity to the solo line. 

I loved this disc, and the friend I played it to enjoyed it enormously too. Partly this is because we were simply dazzled by Anneke Scott's bravura control of a virtuoso technique, of a style which had long ago fallen out of consideration. 

Read the full review here.

Classical CD Reviews, July 2015
Gavin Dixon 

Review: Mozart: Stolen Beauties and Songs of Love, War and Melancholy.

"You’ll learn much from them about horn virtuosi of the Classical and Romantic eras, but without it ever feeling like a history lesson."

"Songs of Love, War and Melancholy brings us forward a generation, at least in terms of the music being transcribed, with concert paraphrases by Gallay of early Romantic Italian operas by Donizetti and Bellini. Anneke Scott is accompanied by Steven Devine at the piano, an Èrard from 1851. Several of the numbers also include soprano Lucy Crowe, on emotive and impressively operatic form, although Gallay is always careful to maintain a dominant position for the horn, so these tend to be duets among equals.

The best-known music here, at least to me, is Bellini’s La Sonambula. That transcription has some satisfyingly low music – it is so rare to hear the lower register of the horn in early showpieces like these, but Anneke’s sound down there is rich and characterful. Elsewhere, there are plenty of pyrotechnics: fast runs, big leaps, searing melodies. No detachable valve section this time, it’s all done on the face and with hand stopping, and is all the more impressive for it."

Read the full review here.

HORNWORLD • June 29, 2015
James Boldin 

Review: Songs of Love, War and Melancholy

"I recently received two wonderful new discs for review from Anneke Scott, a phenomenal performer on both natural and valved horns. Scott serves as principal horn of the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and The English Baroque Soloists, and also performs frequently as a soloist and chamber musician. In addition to her busy performing schedule, she has also found the time to record several albums of music by the great 19th-century horn virtuoso Jacques-François Gallay. The third and final volume in this series is titled Songs of Love, War and Melancholy: The operatic fantasias of Jacques-François Gallay. As in her earlier Gallay recordings, Scott’s natural-horn playing is expressive, athletic, and robust; in short, very impressive! She negotiates even the most difficult passages on the natural horn with beguiling ease. The selections on this disc belong to a repertoire that was extremely popular during Gallay’s day, but is less known to modern horn players."

"On a related topic I’ll close with a general statement about Scott’s natural horn playing, which incorporates lots of different colors and expressive contrasts. There are varying schools of thought regarding hand horn technique, one of which emphasizes absolute evenness and consistency of sound between stopped and open notes. While there is merit to this approach, I personally enjoy hearing a difference in stopped and open timbres, especially when in the hands of a consummate musician like Anneke Scott. When performed tastefully, these contrasts add an elusive, but very important, quality to the music of that era. As a primarily modern (valved) horn player, I have been inspired by these recordings to strive for more expression and timbral variations in my own playing. I think you will as well!"

Read the full review here.

Early Music Reviews - 1st of June, 2015
Andrew Benson-Wilson 

"Gallay was performing and composing at a time when the natural horn was beginning to be overtaken by the valve-horn, although in France the progress of the newer horn was delayed by the extraordinary hand techniques developed by natural horn players. The latter is very evident in the outstanding performance here by Anneke Scott, one of the leading natural horn players around today. She produces some wonderfully plangent tone colours resulting from the technique of tuning and pitching notes by using her hand in the bell of the horn. Although the tone of any valve horn inevitably varies between notes, Anneke Scott manages to achieve impeccable tuning. Her playing, and that of Stephen Devine, has a natural musicality that is particularly noticeable in the way they both apply an easy flexibility to the flow of the music. Soprano Lucy Crowe’s three contributions are similarly noteworthy.

The performers’ choice of instruments is particularly apt; Anneke Scott plays an 1823 Marcel-Auguste Raoux natural horn dating from 1823 (from Oxford University’s Bate Collection), a very similar instrument to Gallay’s own 1821 Raoux horn, now in the Paris Conservatoire. Steven Devine plays an 1851 Érard grand piano loaned by the University of Birmingham, where this recording was made.

Even if you are not a lover of the operas of Bellini and Donizetti, these transformations into delightful and dramatic pieces for saloon and soirée are well worth exploring."

Read the full review here.

The Horn Player Magazine, Spring 2015
Chris Larkin 

This is the third CD of the music of Jacques-François Gallay that Anneke has given us - a rich recompense to the Gerald Finzi Trust who made her an award for the study of Gallay manuscripts in Paris some five years ago. Prior to this recording she presented us with his works for horn alone (Préludes, Caprices and Fantaisies) [RES10114] and the Grand Trios Op. 24 with the Quartet for horns in different crooks Op. 26 [RES10123]. I caught the tail end of Anneke’s launch concert for this disc at the Royal Academy of Music. What immediately struck me, as a mere ‘rude mechanical’ when it comes to hand-horn playing – an orchestrale in Italian parlance – is that Anneke is raising the natural horn out of the arena of ‘yes-very-interesting-but-a-poor-relation-to-the-proper-valve-horn’ into the soft, sunlit uplands of being the beautifully expressive instrument many of us knew it could be. Who, from my generation – that, for decades, only ever had Aubrey Brain’s Brahms trio and Dennis’s Mozarts, Strauss and Hindemith, would ever have dreamed that within a twelvemonth not one, but two, superlative (British) Mozart concerto sets would appear – and made on the instrument for which they were composed? Truly, we are living in an astonishingly rich era of horn recording and progress.

Anneke’s technique is faultless: the problems inherent on the valveless instrument - of intonation and articulation – she floats above – like the lightest soufflé. And her musicality is impeccable. This is a disc you can just stick into the unit and ENJOY. Gallay was a fabled player but his own music could never be said to be in the same league as the great composers of his era – roughly speaking mid 1820s – mid 1840s. So when, as on this disc, he uses the music of his Italian contemporaries – rattlingly good bel canto tunes – we are in for a treat. There are nine tracks, five of which are based on Donizetti’s music, of which the most famous is his opera l’Elisir d’amore (tracks 6 and 7).The first track is a Fantaisie on his first French opera Les Martyrs – not one many of us would have heard of these days: the second, a Fantaisie on a cavatina from Belisario immediately rang my bells (my orchestra recorded Belisario a couple of years ago) and the tune is a real ‘earworm’.

Tracks 4, 5 and 8 are based on music by Bellini – respectively his Bianca e Fernando, then his much better known operas La Sonnambula and Norma. As if all these pleasures were insufficient, Anneke has prevailed upon the superb soprano, Lucy Crowe, to join her and Steven Devine (who, throughout, provides beautifully sensitive accompaniment) in three of Gallay’s settings of arias from Italian opera for voice, horn and piano: Una furtive lagrima from L’Elisir d’amore, Fuis, laisse-moi from Robert Devereux and, of interest to horn players, since he composed duets, a trio and quartet as well as a concerto for our instrument, Saverio Mercadante’s Alla Caccia from his Serate Italiane.

Anneke uses an 1823 Marcel-Auguste Raoux cor solo generously loaned to her by the Bate Collection of Oxford University: the piano used is an Érard, dating from 1851, in the possession of Birmingham University. All in all, everything on this disc marries perfectly – superb research, with supreme artistry, on the best instruments of the period in which the music was composed.