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CD: Initium

18th Century Music from Manuscripts – Volume 9: A concert in the Teatro Italia, Venice, 1776
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Marcia alla Francese in D major K251 (1776) with ringing of the theatre bell [2:53]
Symphony in D major K133 (1772) [32:33]
Georg Christoph WAGENSEIL (1715-1777)
Concerto No. 4 in D major for fortepiano and orchestra (c.1750) [20:50]
Concerto No. 5 in E flat major for fortepiano and orchestra (c.1750) [19:18]
I Suoni Assaggiati
Sand Hollow Idaho Trio
Roderick E. Simpson (music director/musicologist/conductor/performer/soloist)
Robert M. Vassar (assistant/confidant)
rec. no information supplied
INITIUM CDA009 [75:35]
Experience Classicsonline

I’ve written about Initium’s fascinating work in the past, having devoted a single review to no less than seven in this series (see review). Volume eight has escaped review but nine is available and the subject under discussion now. In case you don’t want to plough through the previous text on the subject a few largely reprised words should cover what this project is and what it does.
Initium, presided over by Roderick Simpson, has now produced a series of nine discs attempting to restore rare eighteenth century music. He uses a combination of synthesizer and computer and has put to scholarly use the research he has made into performance practice, orchestral layouts, acoustics – sizes of the halls in the main – orchestrations and techniques of the composers involved. If the words synthesizer and computer strike fear into your heart you should know that Simpson is an accomplished musician and has programmed his electronic equipment with care and discretion.
This volume is predicated on the idea of it taking place at a concert in the Teatro Italia, Venice, in 1776. It’s a concert of Mozart and Wagenseil, the latter something of a project rediscovery for Simpson. We are long used to recordings of the Trombone Concerto by Wagenseil as well as symphonic works and the Harp Concerto too I suppose. But the Fortepiano Concertos are rare birds; these are the focus of the disc. There’s real buoyancy in the D major, engaging, and with considerable phrasal sensitivity in the slow movement. The E flat major sports a very tricky solo part indeed – not that the Fourth was a doddle – and it’s played with a degree of panache here. So too the lovely slow movement.  Significant historically informed questions are raised, discussed and musically and editorially implemented in these works – and the booklet notes make highly instructive reading on such things as figured bass parts, cadenzas, the use of batement and other matters.
In the Mozart symphony the synthesised sounds do reveal themselves more markedly – the strings retain a degree of integrity but it’s one that sounds like an organ/harpsichord sonority.
These clever performances encourage me to reprise the concluding paragraph of my last review, that you could do much worse than to encounter music in this form, however sometimes imperfect; at its best this disc and the set from which it derives (all available singly) reveals tantalising things about a whole strata of (particularly) Viennese composition and in doing so broadens and deepens our awareness, and admiration, of it.
Jonathan Woolf


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