This disc is perfectly brilliant, and I can't recommend it strongly enough. Strictly speaking, only two of the four works given here are concertos, the other two being standard orchestral pieces with prominent work for the horns. Haydn's is one of his early symphonies from his Esterhazy period featuring also solos for cello and violin in its slow movement and a long finale consisting of a set of variations in a kind of gavotte rhythm giving the spotlight to various other members of the orchestra, notably flute and viola da gamba. The Telemann `overture' is a suite in nine movements, along the lines of Handel's Water Music or Fireworks Music but with more pictorial and representational elements. The contribution from Handel himself is a short introduction and andante, suggestive of a formal occasion and with the introduction using material familiar from the Fireworks Music.
The real cracker is Schumann's short concerto, in the usual 3-movement layout. This was described by Tovey as nearly unplayable, but today's virtuosi seem to be afraid of nothing. They even restore some high notes that Schumann revised out of the score, and what a thrilling effect they make. The four soloists are the lead horn-players, American by nationality, in various European orchestras, and they cover themselves with distinction from start to finish. Four virtuoso horn solos naturally take the limelight off the orchestra, but the Sinfonia Varsovia acquit themselves splendidly, particularly in the Haydn symphony where the treatment of the instruments is more democratic and all sections of the band get their chance to shine.
The recording, from Warsaw in 2003, is excellent, and the liner-note, although brief, is helpful and informative, although I would have been glad to be told more about the Handel piece. There are also horn parts of startling difficulty in two of Handel's Concerti a Due Cori, and it would have been interesting to know how he managed to find players of this calibre. It is unusual for him to over-tax his English orchestral players, no doubt for sound reasons of experience, and he surely must have felt a high degree of confidence to write in this way for horns.
As usual with Naxos, there are potted biographies of the soloists and the conductor plus a short history of the orchestra. Also as usual, I wish to praise Naxos in the strongest terms for the imagination and flair they dependably display in finding unfamiliar music of high quality, making a superb job of the production of it, and giving it to us at such a modest cost - apart from anything else there is a full hour and a quarter of music here. I make no apology for constantly repeating this sentiment, indeed I only hope I shall still be doing just that for a good few years to come.