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Concerti Brillanti
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-88) Concerto for cello and strings in A Wq172/H439 (1753) [18:08]
Friedrich Hartmann Graf (1727-95) Concerto for cello and orchestra in D (c.1780) [18:39]
Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783) Concerto for cello and strings in D (c.1730) [14:12]
Johann Michael Haydn (1737-1806) Concerto for cello and orchestra in B flat (c.1800) [25:50]
Jan Vogler (cello)
Münchener Kammerorchester/Reinhard Goebel
rec. no information provided.  DDD
Booklet with notes in English, French and German.
BMG SONY CLASSICAL 88697 11997 2 [77:19]
Experience Classicsonline


This is an unbeatable combination: a first-class, photogenic young cellist who has already made a reputation for himself teams up with one of the foremost early-music exponents. The programme combines the comparatively well-known C.P.E. Bach Cello Concerto with world-première recordings of three very fine concertos by C.P.E.’s predecessors and successors.  Add good orchestral support and a very good recording and you have the recipe for what should make this co-production with Bavarian Radio a best-seller.
 
Jan Vogler and the Münchener Kammerorchester have already recorded the Widman and Schumann Cello Concertos, a version which ‘deserves wide attention’ (Berlin Classics 0017142 – see review).  His version of the Dvorak Cello Concerto (82876 73716-2) was generally deemed to have found an honourable place in a crowded market; his version of the Barber and Korngold Cello Concertos (Berlin Classics 0017672BC) was also welcomed, as were the recordings of the Mendelssohn Cello Sonatas (0017562BC) and Brahms and Schumann Sonatas (0011792BC ) in which he performed.  The version of the Fauré and Schumann Piano Quintets in which he participated creditably (SMK93038) seems to have been deleted already.
 
In case you normally fight shy of Reinhard Goebel’s usual breakneck tempi, you need harbour no fears here.  This is music for virtuosi to show off – hence, presumably, the epithet brillanti in the title of the CD – so fast tempi are in order, but I never felt that they were overdone, as I sometimes do with Goebel’s Bach.  I found his direction here more like his thoroughly recommendable recordings of Telemann.  Try his recording of Telemann’s concertos for various instruments on 476 7253.  Deleted recordings at bargain price on the Eloquence and Classikon labels are well worth looking out for, as are the String Concertos on DG Archiv 471 492-2.  The slow movements on this new CD are given their full weight: that of the C.P.E. Bach is especially affecting.
 
With fine performances of C.P.E.’s Concerto Wq 172 already in the catalogue, coupled with some of his other cello concertos (Suzuki on BIS, Bylsma and Leonhard on a budget-price Virgin twofer, Hugh on Naxos) or with other works by C.P.E. (Bruns on Harmonia Mundi) it was wise to side-step direct comparison.  As it is, Vogler and Goebel could easily have stood such a direct comparison with their confident performance.  Instead, they offer us a range of works from the baroque (Hasse) via the galant style (C.P.E. Bach and Graf) to the classical (Michael Haydn).
 
The sprightly performance of the C.P.E. concerto makes the version by Miklós Perényi with the Liszt Chamber Orchestra under János Rolla (formerly on Harmonia Mundi HMA190 3026, no longer available) sound positively lethargic.  At 6:12 against Perényi’s 6:51 and with brighter, more immediate sound, the first movement is much more impressive on the new recording.  Choice of cadenzas partly accounts for discrepancies in the other two movements but here, too, the more sprightly approach on the new Sony recording pays dividends.
 
Much as I enjoyed the Bach, I enjoyed even more the opportunity to become acquainted with the other concertos.  Michael Haydn’s is the pick of these. For me, this was as exciting a discovery as the unearthing of older brother Joseph’s ‘other’ cello concerto in the 1960s.  This “exotic and superb” concerto (to quote the notes) left me wondering yet again why Michael’s music is so neglected.  The excellent Hyperion recording of his Requiem and Missa in Honorem Sanctæ Ursulæ (CDA67510,  MusicWeb Recording of the Month – see review) gave us a clear indication of his worth.  Now here is another – not quite the equal of Joseph Haydn’s two cello concertos, but emphatically not far off.  Contemporaries actually considered Michael a finer writer of choral music than his brother.
 
Of course, he is outshone by the triple luminaries who were his contemporaries, his brother Joseph, his friend Mozart and, of course Beethoven.  Furthermore, the manuscript of this concerto in the Hungarian National Library is riddled with errors and needed considerable editing. Surely the editor, as well as the publisher, should have been credited in the notes.  Doesn’t he deserve at least as much to be named as the photographers?  There are even those who doubt the attribution of this concerto to Michael Haydn; no matter, this is a fine, substantial concerto in the classical style, whoever composed it.
 
If this concerto has whetted your appetite for more orchestral music by Michael Haydn, I can fully endorse the warm welcome given to the budget-price Regis CD of four of his symphonies (RRC1188 – see review).
 
Friedrich Graf is not exactly a household name – no mention in the Oxford Companion to Music, a brief mention s.v. Graf Family in the Concise Grove; not to be confused with his more famous namesake who made fine pianos.  There is a recording of some of his sonatas on Globe and of six flute quartets on Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm.
 
Johann Hasse is rather better known, with references in the Oxford Companion and the Concise Grove, in both of which he is chiefly referred to as an opera composer.  His concerto is the earliest on this recording – why was it not placed first?. It shows his integration of the Italian style.  If neither the Graf nor the Hasse quite matches the standard of the C.P.E. Bach and Michael Haydn, they are still well worth hearing in such fine performances.
 
The notes, by Reinhard Goebel, are short but to the point and the English translation is idiomatic, apart from the odd typo (“even moreso”).  His statements that the Graf concerto offers “an indication ... of the exceptionally high standard of cello-playing technique at the time [circa. 1780]” and that the Michael Haydn “plac[es] immense demands on the soloist” will serve equally well as a comment of Vogler’s performances throughout this CD.  I was pleased to note that Goebel and/or the printers retain the ‘ß’ character for ‘ss’, now supposedly outlawed in the new German orthography.
 
I had a few grouses. Why have some record companies stopped giving us details of the date(s) and venue(s) of their recordings?  Here we are merely told ‘(P) and (C) 2007’.  For the date of the C.P.E. Bach concertos we are merely told “about 1750”; the Harmonia Mundi recording gives the exact date, 1753 and the H number as well as the Wq number.  And why do we have to be patronised with silly cover pictures?  I am still at a loss to explain the penguins on the cover of Onyx’s recording of the Brahms Sextets; now we have a parrot on the front and back covers, the inlay and even the label of this CD.  By coincidence, the Harmonia Mundi cover picture, Giovane con papagallo, is a taken from an eighteenth-century  painting in the Ashmolean Museum of a young woman with a parrot. That makes sense as a painting in the equivalent of the galant style, and it isn’t plastered all over the rest of the documentation.
 
Why, when we are told in the notes that the Hasse concerto “adheres to the typical four-movement plan” is it divided across only three tracks, with the opening Andante moderato shown as a slow introduction to the first movement?
 
My Arcam Solo had to think long and hard before playing this CD. It seemed to think it was a CDR, which it dislikes. My other decks were happy with it.
 
These annoying omissions and inconsistencies, nevertheless, do not take the edge off a very fine achievement.
 
Brian Wilson
 


 


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