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CD REVIEW

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Johann Baptist VAŇHAL (1739-1813)
Flute Quartet in B flat major Op.7 No.2 (Weinmann Vb:Bb1) (c.1771) [19:18]
Flute Quartets in G major Op.7 No.3 (Weinmann Vb: G1) (c.1771)  [21:45]
Flute Quartets in C major Op.7 No.6 (Weinmann Vb: C1) (c.1771)  [20:02]
Uwe Grodd (flute)
Janaki String Trio
rec. Grace Church-on-the-Hill, Toronto, June 2006
NAXOS 8.570234 [61:04]



Vaňhal’s chamber music includes a folio of works for flute and amongst those are seventeen Flute Quartets. They were clearly popular in their day having been published by more than one publisher and were written either for flute or for oboe. One even exists in a version for Clarinet Quartet. The set was originally published in 1771 but this recording prefers to use the more influential Sieber edition of 1772.
 
Fortunately the performances and each of the three quartets prove attractive. The players of the Janaki String Trio and flautist Uwe Grodd play on modern instruments and do so with deft sensitivity. There is little in the way of pyrotechnical frisson – the Viennese muse here is full of proportion, equilibrium and expressive contouring, all garnished with lyrical affection. The solo instrument’s integration into the texture is exemplified by the opening Moderato of the B flat major where we find an aloofly elegant presentation of melody lines and a text book working out of themes. The slow movement of the same quartet is richly lyrical and the succeeding scherzo fluent, genial and full of expertly judged voice distribution.
 
The G major quartet represents another facet of Vaňhal’s command of chamber textures and rhythms – the natural buoyancy of his material. The Allegro moderato springs along with zest but controlled elegance. Note the pointed cello lines, so adroitly brought out by Arnold Choi, and Serena McKinney and Katie Kadarauch’s violin and viola statements. Doubling of the melody line is done with matching tonal reserves – small scale playing and rightly so. The pert Minuet of the C major has its counterpoint in the more ebullient moments of the Presto finale. Counter-lines are well brought out and Grodd once more ensures that his role is never one that draws undue attention to himself at the expense of his colleagues.
 
Naxos has used this recording location before and it absorbs the playing without magnifying it unduly. The handy notes also disclose that these are world premiere recordings.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 


 


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