Janitsch: Rediscoveries from the Sara Levy Collection

Tempesta di Mare Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra & Chamber Players, Gwyn Roberts, Richard Stone directors, Emlyn Ngai concertmaster
Chandos Chaconne CHAN 0820

Regular readers will know that I am a great fan of Janitsch’s chamber music, and as much a Tempesta di Mare groupie; that’s hardly surprising, given that they have devoted time, energy and magic into recording three marvellous CDs of Fasch’s orchestral music. For this present project, they chose four of Janitsch’s “signature dishes” – quartets for a variety of instruments – and then threw in a total gem, an “Ouverture grosso” for two orchestras! As I’ve written many times before, Janitsch’s quartets are masterclasses in the art of writing for three melody instruments; it doesn’t even seem to matter which colour choices he makes, each voice is showcased in its best light, with equal share of the melodic material and clever (and subtle) use of micromanaged rhythmic patterns that can look intimidating on the page (he is not afraid of septuplets… or obscure keys for that matter!) but which are so convincing in performance. The two orchestras in the final work are coloured slightly differently; one has flutes while the other has oboes. I remember being slightly underwhelmed by Janitsch’s sinfonias when I heard them for the first time, so I wondered if it was simply a case of not being able to write for orchestras, but that was clearly not the case; this is a wonder, with the material being thrown back and forth between the two lightly scored ensembles (orchestra 1 plays one-to-a-part while the upper strings in orchestra 2 are fuller), with proper counterpoint (complete with pedal points and stretto, for those who like to know such things), and a wealth of ideas that drive the music energetically forwards. I rarely highlight individual performances on this sort of disc, but one very definite stand out feature of this disc was the viola playing – in the G minor quartet, in particular, Karina Schmitz and Daniela Lisa Pierson are outstanding.

Brian Clark

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