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Recordings

Concilium musicum Wien  on authentic instruments
22 Jun 2007

Concilium musicum Wien on authentic instruments

This live concert recording assembles a trio of late eighteenth-century Viennese composers; the program is strong in evocation of time and place, but admittedly less so in substance.

Concilium musicum Wien on authentic instruments
Franz Anton Hoffmeister, Sinfonie “La chasse’; Joseph Haydn, Opera Arias; Johann Michael Haydn, Serenata in D.

Concilium musicum Wien; Ursula Fiedler, soprano; Paul Angerer, Director

Cavalli Records CCD 449 [CD]

$16.99  Click to buy

Much of the music here is diverting and functional—admirably so, certainly—but held to the demands of “concert listening,” it does not always rise to a level of high interest.

Franz Anton Hoffmeister was a prolific composer and an important figure in the history of music publishing. (His publishing ventures brought forth editions of Beethoven, Haydn, and Mozart, among others, and form a link with the early history of C. F. Peters.) His hunt symphony is a congenial example of the working out of a style topic—horns and compound meter securely evoke the hunting scene—but in the end it rarely rises above diversion. Johann Michael Haydn’s D-major Serenade is also amicable company, but does not ask much of the listener. The “Andante con variazioni” is the most engaging of the nine movements with compelling contrasts of modality to keep things interesting, though at twelve minutes it seems long in a work that is longish without being particularly expansive or developmental.

Joseph Haydn is represented by three “insertion arias” to operas by Cimarosa, Anfossi, and Paisiello. Two of the three, as was the case with most of his insertion arias, were written for his mistress, Luigia Polzelli. Polzelli had her musical limitations apparently, but this did not impede Haydn giving her a notably beautiful tune in the Anfossi insertion.

The performances are generally stylish and accomplished. Soprano Ursula Fiedler has a brilliant and sparkling sound. Occasionally one might wish for a bit more lightness and ornamental character in the renditions, but these are fleeting instances. The ensemble of period instruments can be uneven—the horns have a tendency to be a bit sharp and “blatty,” for example, but the wind playing, especially solo passages for flute, oboe, and bassoon, remains very engaging and polished, indeed. Not all of the interpretative calls are convincing—the minuets in the serenade seem quite heavy of foot, I think—though in the main the performances are fluent and gratifying . . . and admirably diverting.

Steven Plank

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