Review - Quartet for horn and strings Op.3, No.1 by Giovanni Punto

edb 0704001 Chamber Music series

The music I have heard by Giovanni Punto (1746-1803) strikes me the same way every time – here is a guy who loved to play the horn! There is an energy and a joy in his music that makes up for some of the weaker structural elements, and this quartet is no exception. Here is a three-movement piece that features the horn for the most part, and demonstrates what Punto was reputed to do best: fast scales nd arpeggios. The first movement is a spunky allegro where the horn dominates the first theme and supports the second theme. There is not much development to speak of, but after some contrasting material, the exposition is repeated and then extended to a rousing close. The second movement is my favourite, a lovely lyrical Adagio. A peppy Rondeau provides a flashy closing movement to this work, featuring a surprising extended passage for just the strings, but eventually returning to the main theme several times before ending the piece on some flashy arpeggios.

I don’t want to sound too critical of Punto, the composer. He was the most famous horn virtuoso of his time and played an important role in elevating the image of the horn as a musical instrument in the second half of the 18th century. His music is fun to play, but doesn’t exhibit the same craft or ingenuity as the works of others he knew, like Mozart or Beethoven. Still, this quartet is exactly the type of music that gives us a healthier perspective on the horn of this time. Probably Punto played his own music in concerts, so this is as likely to be the music that elevated the horn as any other. This a nice clean edition of a work that deserves to be heard more in recitals, perhaps not as a focus, but certainly as an alternative in the Classical style.

Jeffrey Snedeker, The Horn Call, IHS, Vol XXXVII No.3, May 2007

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