Mozart’s Horn Quintet was inspired by Joseph Leutgeb, who was a close friend of the Mozart family and a virtuoso horn player.
The modern horn has valves, which makes scales and chromatic notes much easier to play. The horn Joseph Leutgeb would have played was a valveless natural horn. Leutgeb was skilled at controlling his lips and hand-stopping (putting his hand into the bell of the instrument) to create all of the notes.
This quintet is a little like a miniature concerto for horn in three movements. The use of two violas rather than two violins seems to complement the sonorous middle register of the horn.
Throughout this piece, the horn matches the agility and range of the string instruments - so much so that the musicologist Alfred Einstein was described the Andante as 'a little love duet between horn and violin'.
Some listeners like to think the fast outer movements reflect the wicked sense of humour that characterised Mozart and Leutgeb’s friendship.
Recorded 1 February 2019, Nelson Centre of Musical Arts, Nelson by RNZ Concert.
Engineer: Graham Kennedy