The french horn is an unusually accomodating instrument, adjusting gracefully to the sonorities of both the woodwind ensemble and to the brasses. In skilled hands like Brahms', it is perfectly at home in the company of violin and piano, or women's voices and harp, but rarely is it heard on its own and more's the pity.
Hermann Baumann did his bit to remedy this situation last night with a solo horn recital at the Library of Congress. He chose music by Schumann, Strauss, Krol, Beethoven and Glazunov that displayed not only the horn's versatility, but also the ability of those composers to use the instrument in stylistically idiomatic ways.
Schumann, who also wrote astonishingly for multiple horns, demands the highest degree of virtuosity from his performers, and this Baumann produced in spades. His accuracy was remarkable, as was his agility and smooth tone.
Assisted strongly by pianist Samuel Sanders, Baumann gave spirited readings of the Strauss Concerto for Horn and piano and of Beethoven's F major Sonata Op. 17, which he played on a valveless instrument. Krol's "Laudatio" for horn alone was a pleasent short piece and the concluding "Elegie" by Glazunov was both lyrical and sentimental.
On his own, Sanders made rather heavy weather of the Brahms E Minor Intermezzo, Opus 19 No. 2, but played two of Debussy's Preludes with compelling sensativity.