CD of the Month: The Demonic Virtuoso

Owen Farr (tenor horn) | Robert Richardson (Piano) | Cory Band (Philip Harper)
Tubular Brass Recording Label

Take one Niccolo Paganini, a man whose gifts as a violinist were such that he was said to have made a pact with Satan, then pitch him into a devil’s duel with Owen Farr, whose gifts as a virtuoso of the tenor horn are every bit as formidable as those of his great Romantic hero. It is a compelling concept for a recording, taking music that remains amongst the most challenging ever written for the violin and transferring it to a brass instrument on which it shouldn’t, by rights, be playable. But Owen Farr, as we all know, is no ordinary tenor horn player.

From the very opening bars of the Rondo from the 1st Violin Concerto that opens the disc, Owen’s formidable technique is evident, initially with articulation of quite remarkable clarity in which every note is both clearly audible and projected with absolute precision. Yet as the disc progresses, it is the all round musicianship and total command of his instrument that both amazes and beguiles in equal measure.

The choice of music clearly helps in this respect, having been carefully chosen to exploit every facet of the soloist’s art, from the major works with band accompaniment, including a complete transcription of the 2nd Violin Concerto, to the intimacy and familiarity of the unaccompanied Caprice No. 24 and the ear-catching setting of Carnival of Venice, accompanied by guitar and bodhran.

As one might expect in music for violin, the register required is huge, something that the soloist takes in his stride as he traverses the extremes of range with consummate ease, flitting between stratospheric lip trills and the dark colours of his lower register, whilst maintaining a remarkable breadth of tone and timbre throughout. But it is also Owen’s talents as a lyrical musician that make a mark with the opening of Moses Fantasy being a fine example of both his mellifluous tone, and wonderful capacity for lyrical grace and nuance of melodic line.

In his introduction to Owen Farr in the CD liner notes, Sandy Smith concludes, “Congratulations my friend on taking our instrument to a new level”. In tenor horn terms, there have never been truer words spoken.


 The Demonic Virtuoso is available to purchase here


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