Originally written for the natural horn rather than the modern valved horn (despite the natural version being out of date even in his own time), Brahms makes use of the capabilities of the instrument to guide his writing. There are many possibilities for his choice: the natural horn or ‘hunting horn’ has a slightly different sound that the modern version, perhaps even more sombre, and Brahms himself had lessons in the natural horn as a child.
The piece was written in 1865 as an elegy on the death of his mother, Christiane, who had died earlier that year. The use of horn was perhaps tribute to the memories of his early childhood years with her, thought they remained close throughout Brahms’s life.
Recorded 2 February 2019, Nelson Centre of Musical Arts by RNZ Concert.
Sound Engineer: Graham Kennedy