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Surprising Royer – Orchestral Suites

Les Talens Lyriques, directed by Christophe Rousset
82:07
Aparte AP298

It is not clear why it should be ‘surprising Royer’, Royer being Pancrace Royer (1703-1755). He was born of French parents in Turin, his father, an engineer, having been seconded by Louis XIV to assist the house of Savoy. The family returned to Paris while he was still a child. The connections with the royal family stood Royer in good stead; he became a teacher of the royal children, his links securing him his first opera commission, the tragédie Pyhrrus, composed to celebrate the birth of the Dauphin in 1729 and subsequently first performed at the Paris Opéra in 1730. That same year he was appointed maïtre de musique at the Opéra, where he oversaw the production of Rameau’s first opera, Hippolyte et Aricie (1733). Later Royer would become director of the famous Parisian concert society, Le Concert Spiritual and the composer of a virtuosic and highly successful book of keyboard works that included transcriptions from his own operas.

They number five works in addition to Pyhrrus and from them Christophe Rousset has chosen orchestral extracts, mostly dances, from four: Pyhrrus, the ballet-heroïque Le pouvoir de l’Amour (1743), Zaïde, reine de Grenade (1739), another ballet-heroïque and the acte de ballet Almasis (1748). The opening overture to Le pouvoir immediately reveals a composer not only thoroughly competent in contrapuntal technique but also one with an impressive command of orchestration and orchestral colour. If Royer’s dances overall lack the supreme distinction of those of his contemporary Rameau – in particular we find only rare glimpses of the languid sensuality that is just one of many reasons for Rameau’s greatness as a dance composer – there are many that have thoroughly attractive qualities of their own. The two from a hunting scene in Zaïde that was apparently much applauded, an ‘Entrée des chasseurs’ and an ‘Air pour les chasseurs’ creating exciting evocations of the hunt, while some of the more extended dance movements are also particularly striking. Among these is a long and effective Chaconne from Le pouvoir that contrasts airy, diaphanous writing for the flute with more animated passages for the full orchestra. Another extended movement, an ‘Air tendrement’ again with restful trilling flutes and a counter melody featuring bassoons, is arguably the closest Royer comes to Rameau. And if you want irresistible verve, the two ‘Tambourins’ from Royer’s penultimate opera, the one-act Almasis fills the bill admirably.

To say that no one does this kind of music with the élan, the insight and the sensitivity that Christophe Rousset does has by now become virtually a cliché rather than an observation. Rhythms are sprung with refined grace, melodies shaped with elegance, but above all comes the feeling that dancers are never far removed from Rousset’s ‘mind’s eye’. Add to this superb orchestral playing by Les Talens Lyriques – just listen to the rich depth of the bass string section with its six cellos – and it becomes clear that this is a CD that needs no further endorsement from me or anyone else. If you have any kind of feeling for French baroque music you need to hear this. Post haste.

Brian Robins

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Mozart: Piano Concertos

Academy of Ancient Music, Robert Levin, Bojan Čičić, Laurence Cummings
62:33
AAM AAM042

Many will doubtless recall that among the most exciting projects of the last decades of the 20th century was the recording of complete sets of the Mozart keyboard concertos undertaken by Malcolm Bilson (Archiv) and Robert Levin (L’Oiseau-Lyre). Employing instruments of the period and stylish ornamentation, both cycles were path-breaking in the manner in which they gave us the most historically informed ideas yet of how the piano concertos might have sounded to Mozart’s own audiences. The Bilson cycle was to all intents and purposes completed – though you had to go ‘off-piste’ to get the three very early concertos of K107 – but Levin’s came to a halt around the turn of the century after eight volumes. The death of Christopher Hogwood, the conductor of the series, in 2014 might have set the seal on determining that the cycle would remain incomplete. Now however comes the first of a series of five discs on the AAM’s own label that will complete Levin’s set by 2024.

It is something of an assortment of curiosities on which you will not even hear a note played on the fortepiano! Perhaps most curious of all is the concerto fragment that appears in the music notebook of Mozart’s sister Nannerl. The notebook is home to several of Mozart’s earliest efforts at composition (K1a, b and c) and the proposition made here (by Mozart scholar Cliff Eisen) is that the fragment was composed by Mozart and entered in the notebook by the children’s father Leopold. The orchestral passages are not notated but the music has been reconstructed by Robert Levin. It has a strangely familiar feel to it, which annoyingly I cannot put a name to at present, though the saucy folk-like tune could be that of any number of cheeky songs or comic arias. Like the three concertos of K107, it is played on a two-manual harpsichord built by Alan Gotto of Norwich after c.1770 Silbermann, an instrument that does in fact at times sound disconcertingly like a fortepiano (at least as recorded here).

The three concertos of K107 represent a small step in Mozart’s giant advancement of the keyboard concerto. Dating from 1771 or 72, they are not original works, but arrangements of the keyboard sonatas opus 5 of J C Bach, who had befriended the child Mozart during his London visit some six years earlier. Only the first, a charming work, has three movements, the others just two. All three betray the galant elegance of their original composer, as does the sentimental style of the set of variations that form the second movement of the G-major Concerto (No 2). Like all the music on the CD the concertos are played with an easy fluency and nimble, precise finger-work. There are, however, times when I felt that Levin might have allowed a little more affection into his playing, which does carry more than the odd hint of the dutiful.

For those that haven’t read the notes prior to listening to the disc, another surprise comes with the Piano Concerto No 5, K175 (1773), Mozart’s first original piano concerto, for it is played not on the piano (or fortepiano) but on the organ. Eisen’s argument for doing so is convincing. You’ll have to read the full note to find out why in detail, but in brief it hinges mainly on two facts. Mozart’s lost autograph titled the work ‘per il Clavicembalo’, at the time a generic term for keyboard instruments. Perhaps still more persuasively the keyboard part lacks the dynamic markings expected in music for piano, but not that for organ. Although not mentioned by Eisen the general character of the work might also suggest organ for the original solo instrument, for it is a grandiose D-major concerto with trumpets and timpani. To my mind, it works well enough in the outer movements but the lyrical central Andante (without the drums and trumpets, of course) sounds far more ‘pianistic’ and arouses doubts. I also have a question mark about the instrument used, the organ completed by George England in 1760 for Christ’s Chapel of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift, Dulwich, and restored by William Drake in 2009. I’m no organ expert, but it doesn’t sound remotely like the Austrian organs of this period known to me. Levin’s playing of it is again remarkable for its easy facility, though there are hints of skating over some of the more florid passage work. Lastly, there’s an organ work that there’s no debate about, the final Church or Epistle Sonata, K336. The AAM gives Levin generally tidy support, although the ensemble playing of the strings is variable, the above-mentioned variations of K107/2 being an example of less than perfect ensemble. Overall the disc is an interesting addition to the cycle if not quite of the highest calibre.

Brian Robins

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Mozart: The symphonies – the beginning and the end

Il Pomo d’Oro directed from the fortepiano by Maxim Emelyanychev
77:00
Aparté 307

This is the first in what is planned to be a long-term project to record all the Mozart symphonies, with the addition to each volume of what Maxim Emelyanychev calls in his introductory note a ‘sort of musical hors d’oeuvre’. In the case of the present issue that is the Piano Concerto in A, K488, which may cause more than a few eyebrows to rise describing it in such terms. As the CDs title suggests the symphonies included here are Mozart’s very first work in the form, Symphony No 1 in E flat, K16, composed in London at the age of eight in 1764, and the last, No 41 in C (‘Jupiter’), K551, composed in Vienna in 1788. It’s quite a thought-provoking idea since it reminds us of the huge journey taken by the symphony in the hands of Haydn and Mozart, who between them took the form from being a modest three-part introduction to an Italian opera or other dramatic work to the status of magnificent concert works such as Haydn’s ‘London’ symphonies or the great trilogy with which Mozart signed off from the genre, No’s 39 to 41. K16 is indeed a classic example of the genre’s sources, a charming work in only three brief movements, its relationship to dramatic works apparent in the contrasts the young Mozart provides right from the opening bars, a commanding ‘call to attention’ immediately relaxing into a gentle, quiet legato response.

Before looking at any specific examples, let’s try to establish a few general parameters that will presumably also set the scene for future issues. I think the first, and perhaps surprising thing, to say is that these are thoroughly conservative performances.  That may sound odd but Il Pomo d’Oro, of which Emelyanychev is chief conductor, is more likely to be found in the opera house (often figuratively), where it has at times been involved with some radical performances and productions. With the odd arguable exception (the final Allegro assai of the concerto is a little fast for my taste, the central Andante of K16 a little slow) tempos throughout are sensible, while the orchestral playing and balance are excellent throughout.  Every repeat is taken, an admirable policy that here in particular allows the great contrapuntal coda of the finale of the ‘Jupiter’ Symphony to crown the immense peroration of the movement with exceptional power. For a period-instrument performance, the solo playing of the concerto is unusually conservative as to ornamentation, with only very modest embellishments made in the central Andante and no suggestion of the piano playing in ritornelli. Incidentally, the piano played by Emelyanychev is a fine copy of a Conrad Graf of 1823. There is no suggestion of a continuo in the symphonies, which one would have expected at least in the early symphony.

Emelyanychev’s playing of the concerto is fluent, with excellently articulated finger-work in the outer movements and considerable sensitivity in the Andante, which features some lovely piano string playing complemented by the beautifully tuned playing of the composer’s glorious wind ensemble writing. At times I did wonder if K16 was a little prosaic, the last thing expected from these performers, but the ‘Jupiter’ is a splendidly bold performance, with its many contrapuntal elements well brought out. Little bits of individuality include the hint of tympani drum rolls (instead of Mozart’s single beats) in the Minuet. In the Andante Cantabile (ii) the yearning motif that pervades is given a rare and ineffable sadness, while the pain that for me is never far from the surface is inflected with even greater emotion in the development. The great finale is given a thrilling drive, but not at the expense of the movement’s inherent nobility and sense of taking the listener on an enthralling, unpredictable journey that will reach its destination only in the contrapuntal wizardry of the coda.

In sum, these are highly satisfying performances that auger well for the long traversal ahead. If not startlingly revelatory, emulation of this standard will ensure Emelyanychev’s performances will make for a fine library of the symphonies for anyone choosing to collect them.   

Brian Robins

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Haydn – Symphonies 13 – “Hornsignal”

Il Giardino Armonico, conducted by Giovanni Antonini
80:18
Alpha Classics Alpha 692

This latest addition to Giovanni Antonini’s outstanding integral Haydn cycle turns to a trio of symphonies that fall into the category of what the notes delightfully term Haydn’s ‘horn-heavy’ symphonies. Particularly notable among these is, of course, No. 31 in D, nick-named the ‘Hornsignal’ and a work older readers may recall was a great favourite of Sir Thomas Beecham’s. There are few more thrilling openings in music than that of the ‘Hornsignal’, with the unusual scoring of four horns braying their brave fanfares with aplomb and total lack of inhibition. The symphony dates from 1765, around the time Haydn had become de facto Kapellmeister at Esterházy. There is indeed much about this symphony to suggest that Haydn was using it give the players of what had virtually become ‘his’ orchestra a showcase in which to show off their talents. The Adagio (ii) is a three-way dialogue between the horns, a solo violin and solo viola, while the Finale (Moderato molto) opens with a cantabile melody – beautifully played by the strings of Il Giardino Armonico – before proceeding to a set of variations in which cello, flute, violin and horns (of course) are all given a place in the limelight, the whole rounded off by the double-bass – a winning idea – before the tempo speeds up for a brief Presto coda. The whole symphony is in Haydn’s best ‘great entertainer’ mode, having no pretensions to profundity; it is accepted as such with relish by Antonini’s splendid players just as it must have been by Haydn’s.

Symphony No 59, known as the ‘Fire’ Symphony, dates from four years later. No convincing explanation has been advanced for the name, but it seems to stem from a mid-19th-century catalogue of Haydn’s work, where the name ‘La Tempesta’ is also associated with it. Whatever the background the name is not inappropriate, since from the outset the symphony has an unpredictability, even eccentricity about it that may recall the leaping of flames from one point to another. There is also a strong element of theatricality as in the second movement, where the steady slow march-like motif gives way to cantabile strings and later rude outbursts from the horns. The finale is a glorious romp, with horns again to the fore and, in this performance, a truly exhilarating sense of forward momentum.

Also from 1769 is Symphony No 48, known as ‘Maria Theresia’ from the probability of it having been composed for the name-day of the Austrian empress.  Again the outer movements in Antonini’s performance are notable for the high-level energy, outstanding balance, and bravura playing (horns to the fore again) that has been such an outstanding characteristic of the series as a whole, but here I’d like to focus on the exquisitely lovely playing of the Adagio (ii). Muted strings and veiled horns give the opening a distanced, in lontano impression, while mysterious murmuring broken chords evoke a nocturnal atmosphere. The silky refined beauty of the string playing is breathtaking.

This is another stellar addition to a cycle that is already well-proven to be infinitely and endlessly rewarding, each issue leaving the listener impatiently awaiting its successor.

Brian Robins

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Handel: Concerti Grossi opp. 3 & 6

Accademia Bizantina, directed by Ottavio Dantone harpsichord
217:12 (4 CDs)
HDB-AB-ST-001/2  (Available from https://hdbsonus.it/en)

This handsome set is currently available only as a 4-CD limited edition box set entitled ‘The Exciting Sound of Baroque Music’ from the website listed above. The title is a project being undertaken by Accademia Bizantina with the objective of, in the words of its founder and director Ottavio Dantone, ‘disseminating musical culture outside conventional listening spaces’.  It hardly needs saying that anything furthering encouragement of the discovery of music such as the Handel concerti grossi is obviously to be encouraged, particularly when played by an ensemble as distinctive as Accademia Bizantina. In its hands the sound of Baroque music is indeed exciting and often in ways that differ considerably from that of north European period instrument ensembles.  It is instantly more febrile, with an attack that can at times sound more spiky and aggressive, more muscular than the sound aimed at by, say, UK groups. Yet Italianate warmth also prevails where needed and one of the principal characteristics of the playing is always a strong sense of dramatic contrast stemming, I suspect, from the ensemble’s increasing activity in the opera pit. The sound of the full orchestra is at once fuller, richer and more rounded than that customarily sought in this music by most north European groups, the bass fortified by the strong contribution made by the inclusion of the theorbo in the continuo. More on that subject later.

Handel’s two sets of concerti grossi of course form part of the standard repertoire of Baroque orchestral music. Yet they are very different. Op 3 is a set of six concertos assembled mostly from works composed many years before and almost certainly without Handel’s authorisation by his publisher John Walsh, who issued them in 1734. They represent a vivid illustration of the anarchical world of publishing in the 18th century, one of which Walsh as a successful entrepreneur took full advantage. Lacking the scheme of the popular Corellian concerto grosso, the assemblage also contains errors that Bernardo Ticci has sought to correct in his new critical edition employed here. To move from one set to the other is to be aware immediately that opus 6 occupies a different sphere to opus 3, one that attains an elevated grandeur, breadth and nobility in general foreign to the earlier group, for all its charm. Composed in 1739, the 12 concertos were designed to be performed between the acts of Handel’s oratorios. Unlike op 3, they are true concerti grossi, with clearly delineated concertino (solo) parts contrasted with the full body of strings (unlike opus 3, which has oboe parts, opus 6 is scored only for strings.)

Unsurprisingly the performances of the two sets accords closely with the typical characteristics of Accademia Bizantina identified above. The playing is on the highest level, with outstanding concertino playing from the three solo players. Above all marked by the thrillingly committed verve and flair of the quicker movements, these players are also capable of finding a poise, delicacy and lightness of touch that brings to movements such as the final Allegro of op 6/6 an engaging enchantment or the profound intensity of expression that marks such as the Adagio (iv) of op.6/8.

There are few caveats. Some may find the string chording at times a little too abrupt and lacking sustained tone, though it is not something that here concerns me. Neither to any significant degree is the current predilection for tempos that tend to extremes, Dantone’s fondness for fast allegros being particularly prevalent. Just occasionally eyebrows might be raised, as in op 3/5 where in the succession of movements ii and iii, marked respectively Allegro and Presto, the beat for the latter sounds to my ears the slower of the two despite a marking that would suggest greater momentum. More serious to my mind is Dantone’s penchant for an assertive continuo theorbo contribution, a modern and unwelcome development in HIP in recent years. Early period instrument versions of these works, like the classic English Concert versions (1982 & 1984), found no necessity to include any kind of archlute and to my knowledge there is no evidence that Handel would have expected them. Here Dantone includes a theorbo – and worse still in places a guitar – in op.3 and both an archlute and theorbo in op.6. It is possible to argue that to help achieve the richness of Academia Bizantina’s bass sonorities such powerful instruments might be used to add chords. What is, in my view, completely unacceptable are the fiddly byzantine arabesques that here so often distract from the cantabile concertino or even ripieno lines.  Writer after writer in the 16th to 18th century complained of plucked instrument players with ideas above their station. It is high time their present-day descendants were put back in theirs.  

The set is handsomely produced, being in a sturdy box with individual cases for the two publications and a lavishly illustrated 128 pp book. My only reservation about it is that more space might with benefit have been devoted to notes on individual concertos at the expense of rather less on hyperbole. Notwithstanding, the last thing I would wish to do is conclude on a sour note. The performances are too thrilling, too life enhancing and too elevating to allow it. They deserve the widest possible circulation and I much hope they will become more generally available.

Brian Robins

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Handel: Organ concertos op. 4 & op. 7

Martin Haselböck (op. 4), Jeremy Joseph (op. 7), Orchester Wiener Akademie
164:00
Alpha Classics Alpha 742

In 2014 Martin Haselböck and his Orchester Wiener Akademie put themselves on the musical map with their Resound Beethoven project, which involved performing and recording the complete Beethoven symphonies on period instruments in Viennese venues where they had been premiered or performed in the composer’s lifetime. As the programme note to this 2-CD boxed set candidly admits, this project is very different in that the magnificent acoustic of the Goldener Saal of the Musikverein provides these organ concertos by Handel with a very different context from the composer’s own performances. While the Musikverein’s 2011 Rieger organ provides many of the stops available on a Baroque organ, again the context is very different, while the forces fielded by the Akademie are much smaller than those available to Handel for his performances, often in the wider context of an oratorio or an opera. And yet, these are utterly mesmerising performances, musically intelligent, technically superb, and wonderfully effervescent. While the Resound Beethoven project reminded us that the acoustic of the original venues is a factor in any attempt to reconstruct how music originally sounded, it is possible to produce an utterly convincing and engaging performance just by calling upon superlative musicians and placing them one of the finest acoustics in the world. If just occasionally I felt that an organ stop belonged in a later period, these are thoroughly enjoyable accounts with Haselböck himself at the keyboard for the op 4 concerti and Jeremy Joseph taking over for the op 7. For a generally more convincing period sound, the excellent 1996 set by Paul Nicholson on Hyperion with Roy Goodman and the Brandenburg Consort which uses an organ Handel himself is known to have played, and which gives us the op 4 no 6 on harp as originally intended as well as supplying the Alleluia chorus conclusion to op 4 no 4 (mentioned in the booklet notes for present recording but not performed) is probably for you, but I did very much enjoy these Viennese accounts.

D. James Ross

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Mozart: Piano Concerto no. 23, Symphony no. 40

Andreas Staier fortepiano, Le Concert de la Loge, Julien Chauvin violin & director
56:59
Alpha 875

Named in part – they had to drop ‘Olympique’ after protests from the French Olympic association – after the Parisian concert organisation that commissioned a set of symphonies from Haydn, Le Concert de la Loge was founded by the violinist Julien Chauvin in 2015. Today it is firmly established as one of the many outstanding period instrument orchestras in France, having gained a particular reputation (at least on record) in Classical repertoire.  For the present CD, they have joined forces with the distinguished forte-pianist Andreas Staier, who plays one of Mozart’s best-loved concertos on a very fine copy of a Walter instrument of c.1790 built by Christoph Kern of Staufen. Those coming across the disc may be surprised to find that the G-minor Symphony has acquired an unlikely nickname – ‘Le Dodécaphonique’. Apparently, it was chosen by the musicians of Le Concert following a contest among their concert audience, though not I suspect without the prompting of Chauvin, who in his note draws attention to the start of the development of the opening movement and its use all the notes of the chromatic scale, with the exception of G natural. Perhaps he might with better purpose have noted Mozart’s extraordinary use of chromaticism throughout the symphony; it is responsible for engendering much of the work’s tragic drama and is a prime feature that distinguishes it from many another turbulent G-minor symphony, including Mozart’s own earlier example, K 183.

Leading from the first violin desk, Chauvin’s way with Mozart is quickly established with the Don Giovanni Overture that opens the CD. His tempos tend to be on the brisk side, leading to a danger of brusqueness not always avoided. On the credit side, however, there is an inherent sense of drama, which is aided by splendid balance between strings and the exceptionally accomplished wind, and a keen ear for detail. The strings are not always a match for the wind and there is a trace of sourness in the Overture. One movement where greater forward momentum certainly does pay dividends is in the central Adagio of the A-major Piano Concerto, which without losing the depth of feeling the music conveys – some of the most profound even Mozart ever wrote – better conveys its siciliana rhythm and avoids the trap of sentimentality into which it sometimes falls. For the most part, this movement is also exquisitely decorated, as it must be if it is to be expanded from its skeletal state. It is to Staier’s credit that he mostly avoids the temptation to rewrite rather than ornament the melodic line, and only near the conclusion (from bar 88) do I feel he slightly over-eggs the pudding. Otherwise, Staier’s performance is marked by the nimble and precise finger-work that is a hallmark of his playing, with judicious touches of rubato underlining just how fine a musician he is.

The G-minor Symphony is given in the second version with clarinets, as is usual. Unlike the overture and concerto it was not recorded in the Arsenal de Metz – Cite Musicale but in the Notre-Dame de Liban church in Paris with a warmer, more generous acoustic  (and a substantially differently constituted orchestra). It’s a fine performance – fine enough indeed to have wished that Chauvin had taken the second-half repeat of the finale, again illustrative of Mozart’s astonishing contrapuntal chromatic mastery, though a steadier tempo might have been more effective here. But all-in-all these are challenging and rewarding performances of familiar masterpieces that make the listener prick up his ears anew, not always a foregone conclusion.

Brian Robins

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Rameau: Nouvelle Symphonie

Florian Sempey baritone, Les musiciens du Louvre, Marc Minkowski
64:58
Château de Versailles Spectacles CVS062

‘Nouvelle’ in the sense that this is a new compilation (and newly recorded – not extracts from the back catalogue) of extracts from Rameau’s dramatic works. And it has been done in an imaginative way, not simply lumping together all the dances from one opera and calling them a suite. We begin and end in Castor et Pollux, there are five items from Les Indes Galantes and we briefly visit another six works, including the less well-known Acante et Céphise (its firework display – literally – of an overture and two other items). The orchestra is of a generous size (three double basses) and plays with brilliance and enthusiasm, and, rather to this writer’s relief, we are spared speculative percussion contributions.

A striking feature of the programme is the inclusion of a few vocal items sung by baritone Florian Sempey with a blend of sweetness and nobility.

Finally, the booklet (in French, English and German) is informative, though I do prefer it when the essays are grouped by language rather than title.

David Hansell

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Leclair Concerti per violino

Leila Schayegh, La Cetra Barockorchester Basel
62:13
Glossa GCD 924206

In her elegant essay, the soloist suggests that Leclair’s music has the power ‘to thrill and amaze’.

Well, that is certainly true of this third and final volume in her ensemble’s recordings of his complete violin concertos. The low(ish) pitch of A=408 Hz gives a warmth to the sonority while the ripieno group is large enough to sound like an orchestra but not so large that the soloist has either to force her sound or resort to electronic trickery to be suitably prominent in the overall soundscape.

The music combines demanding virtuosity with an almost detached melodic grace and is often coloured with moments of deft counterpoint and rich harmonies. In short, it’s really classy. If you want to sample before purchase, I’d suggest Op10/4, though none of the 12 tracks will disappoint.

And it’s a pleasure to be able to note a booklet that combines strong content with good design. It had to be possible.

David Hansell

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Cello Concertos from Northern Germany

Gulrim Choï, Ensemble Diderot
64:13
Audax Records ADX11200

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Ensemble Diderot’s exploration of pre-classical German music has recently focussed on the culturally dynamic city of Berlin, and these four attractive cello concertos, two of which are receiving world premiere recordings, certainly deserve a place in our understanding of it. The most famous composer represented here, probably due to his later move to London, is gamba virtuoso, composer and Bach pupil, Carl Friedrich Abel, indeed the only one of the four composers here that I have previously come across. By contrast, Ignác Frantisek Mara, Markus Heinrich Grauel and Johann Wilhelm Hertel have been treated less kindly by posterity, sinking into relative neglect. In these characterful performances by cellist Gulrim Choï, the quirky originality of all four composers becomes evident. It is interestingly in the slow movements of their cello concertos that their individuality becomes most apparent, but these are remarkably accomplished works full of musical inspiration. I often feel that the music from the melting pot of the pre-classical period, with its heady ethos of exploration and experimentation, is more interesting and exciting than that of the more settled classical period itself, and this is very much the case here. Combining technical assurance and an engaging sense of adventure, all four composers represented have something valuable to say, and Choï and the Diderot Ensemble give them vivid and eloquent expression here.

D. James Ross