In 2017 I researched the provenance of this music, aided by my friend and colleague Daniel Lienhard in Switzerland. Here’s a resumé of what I discovered.
They are not by Otto Nicolai. They are by Carl ERNST Nicolai (1796-1874) bandmaster of the Groβherzoglich Mecklenburgisch-Strelitzen Infanterie Bataillon between 1830 and 1866.
He had the first three (and probably Duos 4-6 though prints have not yet come to light) privately published by the firm of Moritz Westphal in Berlin, very probably in the 1840s.
(I think - handwritten) copies were made in Stettin in 1848 - later acquired by Adolf Borsdorf (1854-1923) and brought with him to Britain in 1879 when he took up a contract here. Borsdorf’s library passed to his three horn-playing sons Oskar, Franz and Emil.
The British horn player Handel Knott (1888-1979) knew all the Borsdorfs well and made his own manuscript copies of these six Duos in February 1940. Duos 4-6 bear no resemblance to the Buyanovsky 4-6 whatsoever
Arthur Campbell (1920-1996) made copies of Handel Knott’s copies in December 1947. Farquharson Cousins, friend to both Knott and Campbell asserts in On Playing the Horn that “Before the 1939-1945 war” he “frequently played through all six duets with the late Handel Knott”. If this is so then they must have been using Borsdorf’s copies as photocopiers were not then available – and Knott is quite clear that he made his handwritten copies in 1940.
Campbell’s handwritten copies of Knott’s material are the ones that found their way to Kurt Janetzky in the GDR. Janetzky edited Nos 1 and 2 in 1961 and No. 3 in 1966 for Musica Rara, copying Campbell’s version which had been made, very impractically for performance, on double systems with both parts together, unlike the original printed copies of Duos 1-3.
Cousins said that he passed copies of all six duets to Vitali Buyanovsky “in the mid-1950s” (actually probably 1960) for publication in the USSR when the Leningrad S.O. visited the Edinburgh Festival. Cousins retained handwritten copies made by his pupil, Crisetta MacLeod, and these formed the basis of Oliver Brockway’s edition for Kunzelmann. Buyanovsky’s father, Mikhail, produced pastiche versions of Duos 4–6 as seen above.
I now have copies of the original print of the first three Duos, Campbell’s copy of all six duos and Knott’s copies of Duos 2-6. I have not yet had time to compare the differences between versions of the Duos 1-3 but, in the first movement of Duo No. 1 alone, I can report finding 140 major discrepancies between the Westphal print and the Musica Rara version. These included four wrong notes, palpable phrasing differences, incorrect rhythms, many missing articulations and dynamics. With all of this new information, a critical edition of this wonderful horn music is absolutely necessary. I intend to produce one in the near future for London Gabrieli Brass Edition.
More extended versions of my article on this subject appeared in the 2017 Summer and Winter editions of the British Horn Society’s magazine The Horn Player and the February 2018 edition of the International Horn Society’s magazine The Horn Call.