Septmber 2, 1957

Dennis Brain

      It is only rarely that playing of one outstanding instrumentalist makes an orchestra immediately recognisable. On pre-war records the London Philharmonic could always be identified through the oboe of Leon Goossens, and since the war the Philharmonia Orchestra could be picked out just as certainly in any guessing game from the horn playing of Dennis Brain. There was a peculiar sensuousness to his tone; it was far removed from the nasal whine of a horn in the hands of a Frenchman, and even from the over-ripe fruitiness of a Vinenese horn player. It says much that it was unique among members of the Brain family.

      Happily, even in a career cut so short, Brain made excellent recordings of much of the limited repertoire for the horn, and himself inspired composers to extend that repertoire. The Columbia disc of the Mozart horn concertos should justly remain a best seller for many years. It was with Brain's playing in mind that Benjamin Britten wrote what is perhaps his most perfect work yet, the Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings. At least, unlike the playing of great virtuosos in the past, there is little chance that Brain's example will be forgotten.