In the 18th and 19th century, a great many chamber-music works for winds were composed with a specific occasion in mind. Brahms’s Horn Trio, however, is an exception in that it was not especially written for a contemporary virtuoso. It is known, though, that Brahms himself played this difficult instrument fairly well, that he valued the beauty of its tone, and that he was inspired to compose the work recorded here by an inner urge.
In his performance, John Barrows concentrates upon bringing out the compositional layout of the work, which largely dispenses with a display of virtuosi fireworks. The sonorous tonal character of the horn and its range of expression – from lyrical to mournful – are shown off to great effect. In the rapid Finale, however, Barrows pays tribute to the various playing techniques offered by this aristocratic instrument. With blaring staccatos and organ-like bass notes, he goads his fellow musicians to join him in a musical hunt, as it were, and they take up his challenge with thrilling effect.