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‘God, this feeble lack of melody! When is this aged youngster ever going to fall in love?’ Such was the opinion given by Hans von Bulow – one of the most distinguished conductors of his day – on the world premiere of the Concerto for Horn and Orchester No. 1 on 4 March 1885. However, it seems to have had little effect on the popularity of the piece. Richard Strauss’ Horn Concerto No. 1 still remains part of the standard repertoire of horn virtuosos today. Composed for the natural horn – a valveless predecessor of the modern horn – it offers soloists innumerable opportunities to prove their musical and technical prowess. It was written before 1883, reflecting the developmental stage of the 19-year-old Strauss, and was of course very different from the style of his later operas and symphonic poems.
Sonja Huber, February 2009