Wednesday, December 2, 2020
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Classics on Sunday: Barry Tuckwell

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THE French horn player Barry Tuckwell died this month at the age of 88. He was rated a genius on the notoriously difficult instrument, involving as it does blowing air through up to 30ft of tubing. This article describes its evolution. 

The Times published Tuckwell’s obituary but I thought this would be a good opportunity to visit the Mozart Horn Concertos for which he was renowned. All four were written for Mozart’s good friend Joseph Leutgeb.

Here are Nos 1 and 2. No 1, although numbered first, was the last to be written and was unfinished at the time of Mozart’s death in 1791 at the age of 35, being completed by his pupil Sussmeyr (who also completed his Requiem). It is the shortest and simplest to play, presumably because of Leutgeb’s advancing age. No 2 was the first to be written, being dedicated to Leutgeb thus: ‘W A Mozart took pity on Leutgeb, ass, ox and fool in Vienna on 27 May 1783.’ No 2 begins at about 8’ 40”.

Here are Nos 3 and 4. No 3 was completed between 1784 and 1787. The autograph score is in the British Library and can be seen here. No 4, written in 1786, is probably the best known and on this recording starts at 14’ 10”.

Tuckwell was a popular character with a sense of fun. This can be seen in a series of TV programmes he made with Melvyn Bragg in 1984.

Lesson 1

Lesson 2

Lesson 3

 Lesson 4

He was nothing if not versatile. Here he plays I’ve Got You Under My Skin with George Shearing on their 1986 recording of Cole Porter standards.

I am sure he would forgive me for ending this piece slightly off-subject with the enduringly funny Ill Wind by Flanders and Swann, first performed on their 1964 album At the Drop of Another Hat.

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Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth is a retired national newspaper journalist. She runs the Subbing Clinic in a hopeless attempt to keep up standards, and co-runs A & M Records where she indulges her passion for 60s pop.

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