Sonatas for Horn and Fortepiano


JULY 2011

Anneke Scott and Kathryn Cok demonstrate here that performance on period instruments need not be a dry or academic exercise. In fact, the four works they play here would have little to commend them were they to be played on modern instruments. But the great benefit of the handhorn and the fortepiano is the sheer variety of tones and colours that they are capable of producing, bringing something new to each successive phrase. 

An interesting, if purely theoretical, debate is often sparked by the performances of virtuoso period instrument players. Namely, when the music was written, were there virtuosi of the same calibre about? And if not, do performances of superior technical skill have any claim to authenticity? In the case of the early 19th century handhorn, the answer to the first question is a definite yes. It was a period when solo handhorn players were rising to superstar status across Europe, and while the quantity of surviving virtuoso music written for them is relatively small, the sheer technical difficulty of the music presented here demonstrates that their skill must have been to a very high level indeed.

But first and foremost, this recording is great fun. It is not a history lesson in any sense, and while the historical research behind it clearly erudite, it is the immediacy of the music that leaves a lasting impression. Without the mediation of valves, the horn is acoustically a very simple instrument, if performance-wise a very complex one. And the composers represented make little concession for the physical contortions the player must execute to play their various scales, runs, ornaments etc. Every note of the scale has a different timbre, something Scott is keen to emphasise, while keeping the dynamics and contours of the phrases impressively even. I'll confess to astonishment at the precision of her tuning, and even go as far as to suggest that her 19th century forebears would have made more intonation slips than she does.

The compositions are serviceable without being exceptional. At the risk of offending Beethoven devotees, I would say that the Krufft is the best of them. Like the Beethoven, and indeed the Leidesdorf/Bellonci, it is in a fairly conventional Classical-era style. The sort of music you would normally expect to hear on a clarinet or perhaps a violin. I don't know how many of the ornaments are written into the score, and it wouldn't surprise me if the players are adding in their own complications just for the hell of it. But all the filigree decoration fits well into the style of the work, and the horn writing, or at least the horn playing, at the end of the third movement is as complex as you'll find anywhere.

I've never been much of a fan of the Beethoven sonata. The story that it was dashed off on the afternoon of the performance is all the more convincing for the uninspired results. Or so I thought before hearing this. But that insipid conformity that pervades the whole piece when played on a modern horn falls away when presented on a period instrument. The variety of tone colours that the handhorn adds into the mix really makes the piece worth hearing. As I say, the Krufft is more fun, and certainly deserves its top billing on the programme, but this reinvention of the Beethoven is another highlight of the disc.

The Largo from Haydn's Rider Quartet, presented here in an arrangement by an unkown hand, offers a few minutes respite before the grand finale of the final sonata. At the risk of labouring the point, I'm not much of a fan of the original of this piece either. But again, the performance on handhorn adds to the interest. It is an interesting demonstration of the fad amongst music publishers in the early 19th century to issue famous works in arrangements for every imaginable combination of instruments.

Kathryn Cok is an energetic but sensitive accompanist. Like Scott, she never treats the classical repertoire, nor her historic instrument, with undue reverence, and she plays every piece with energy and spontaneity. Her fortepiano (by David Winston 2007) is in excellent condition with a bright a vibrant sound, but also with just enough of that boxy, nasal quality to distinguish it from its modern relatives. The recorded sound in general is very good, quite resonant but with all the details clearly presented. The liner contains an interesting essay about the works from Anneke Scott. The two handsome photographs of the photogenic performers are welcome, but some photographs of their instruments would also have been of interest. But as I say, this disc is not about the technology upon which the recordings were made, and the 'historical' nature of the whole project is abundantly clear from the sound quality of every note. Instead it is about lively and spontaneous music making. From that point of view, I'd recommend it to anybody, and not just to those with a specialist interest in period instruments.

Gavin Dixon

[The] programme consists of two of the more standard natural horn solo pieces by Beethoven and Krufft plus two less well known but very worthwhile pieces by Haydn and the composer duo Leidesdorf and Bellonci. Scott provides excellent and detailed notes on all the composers and their compositions...The natural horn playing is superb throughout with stellar support on fortepiano by Kathryn Cok...The real gem in the programme is the anonymous arrangement of the Largo from Joseph Haydn's Rider String Quartet. Scott plays with the most beautiful legato and subtle changes of colour...A fine solo debut and an album to be highly recommended."

The Horn Player (October, 2011)

Presented with such credentials one might reasonably expect nothing short of an excellent recording, and this is exactly what the two have provided... The obscurity of these works, each of which are nevertheless interesting in their own right, let alone the quality of the performances, makes the CD a valuable resource for anyone wishing to expand their knowledge of the solo horn literature of the Classical-era... Scott and Cok have negotiated each of these varied challenges successfully and crafted a compelling musical performance... In any case, the thing that recommended this CD to me personally was that it raised so many questions but was not performed like an academic exercise in the slightest. While scores and scholarship make me ask questions regularly, it has been a long time since a CD did.
Historic Brass Society (7th October, 2011) - Click here to read more.


Camillo Bellonci komponierte die hier wohl erstmals eingespielte Hornsonate: er wirkte als Hornist in Wien auch am Kärtnertor-Theater und bemühte sich wohl um bautechnische Verbesserung seines Instruments. Wahrscheinlich hat er das großformatige Stüke für sich selbst komponiert, der bekannte Verleger Leidesdof es publiziert und sich als Komponist miterwähnt. Das mit erfrischenden und überraschenden Einfällen faszinierende Werk ist eine musikantische Perle, die allerhöchste Spielkunst verlangt und diese CD wertvoll macht. Denn wie Nikolaus von Kruffts ist auch Beethovens Hornsonate für Stich-Punto, mit ihm uraufegführt, wohlbekannt; das "Adagio" aus Haydns Streichquartett op74:3 ist ein hübsches Schmankerl. Eine für Hornenthusiasten wichtige Neuerscheinung
Ensemble (October, 2011)

Der Tonträgermarkt wurde in der letzten Zeit nicht gerade überschwemmt mit Aufnahmen von Hornsonaten. Da weckt jede neu erscheinende Einspielung Interesse. – Und es ist umso erfreulicher, wenn man es mit einer zu tun hat, die den Hörer gefangen nimmt, wie etwa die nun vom holländischen Challenge Records veröffentlichte CD mit dem schlichten Titel ‚Sonatas for Horn and Fortepiano‘. Was sich aber so brav anhört, birgt ordentlich Zündstoff. Dafür sorgt Anneke Scott, die sich den letzten Jahren als einer der führenden Virtuosen auf diversen historischen Horntypen etabliert hat, sowohl als Solistin als auch in verschiedenen ‚period orchestras‘ und auf dem Feld der Kammermusik. Letzteres bestellt sie mit der amerikanischen Pianistin Kathryn Cok, einer Spezialistin für historische Claviere. Romantisches Kantabile in klassisch klarer Formung.
Klassic.Com (25th of August, 2011) Click here to read more.

This is a great CD, featuring some unusual and worthwhile music which is not overshadowed by the better known Beethoven.
Musical Pointers (July, 2011) - Click here to read more.

31ST OF AUGUST, 2011

Na drie keer luisteren bleef er maar één fragment van deze cd in mijn geheugen hangen: een bewerking van een deel uit een van Haydns strijkkwartetten. Misschien kwam dat doordat ik het al kende, maar dat gold ook voor Beethovens sonate opus 17 – geen bewerking overigens.

Ik denk eerder dat het te maken heeft met de kwaliteit van de gespeelde muziek op deze cd. Met name de sonates van Krufft en Leidesdorf maken niet bepaald de indruk lang vergeten meesterwerken te zijn. Vlot geschreven, maar een beetje uitgestreken, keurig in het pak maar niet pakkend.

Laten we er maar van uitgaan dat het repertoire voor hoorn en piano vóór 1800 beperkt was en dat lag ongetwijfeld aan de beperking van het instrument. De ventielen waren nog niet uitgevonden. Wel kon men destijds gebruikmaken van verschillende beugels om in andere toonsoorten te spelen. Sommige types hadden extra buisjes die men tussen de grote buis kon plaatsen, maar in feite had de speler maar één middel om halve afstanden te spelen: door de rechterhand in de beker te bewegen.

Jammer dat het booklet bij deze cd over de natuurhoorn en zijn ontwikkeling geen enkele informatie geeft. Dat zou interessanter zijn geweest dan de levensbeschrijvingen van enkele onbekende componisten die nu zijn afgedrukt.

Dit in ogenschouw nemend moet men wel bewondering hebben voor wat hoornist Anneke Scott hier op haar instrument voor elkaar krijgt.Want virtuoos zijn de stukken wel en Scott lijkt daar geen enkele moeite mee te hebben.

Verder werkt het gebruik van een fortepiano positief. Het klankbeeld blijft transparant en dat maakt dat het luisteren naar deze muziek toch wel plezierig is.


This short lunchtime concert was the musical cousin of a good gin and tonic. Each of the three pieces involved both Anneke Scott (natural horn - ie without helpful additions such as valves) and Kathryn Cok (fortepiano) in near equal measures. Both played with a combination of lemon zestiness and icy control. From her initial note onwards in Antonin Reicha’s Solo in E minor, Scott showed her mastery of her difficult instrument, drawing out its sensitivity during the andante as much as its vibrancy during the other movements. She and Cok were especially well blended throught Nikolaus von Kruft’s Sonata in E Major, with the latter excelling at the introductions to each movement intertwined throught Beethoven’s Sonata in F Major. The two provided a suprising encore in the form of an adaptation of Schubert’s Ave Maria. Usually, I loathe this work. However. Ms Scott produced a breezy interpretation that swept away images of suffocating church interiors and replaced it with sunnier vistas of hills and rivers. Mine’s a double! (Paul Simon, The Mercury).

A stylish and informative recital.

(Jackie Wallace, Essex County Standard)