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Jan Dismas ZELENKA (1675-1745)
Hipocondrie à 7 Concertanti in A major (c.1723) [7.50]
Concerto à 8 in A major (1723) [15.51]
Simphonie à 8 Concertanti in A minor (1723) [23.19]
Johann Georg PISENDEL (1687-1755)

Concerto in D major (c.1730) [12.48]
Sonata in C minor (c.1730) [3.38]
Freiburg Baroque Orchestra/Gottfried von der Goltz
Rec 29 September – 3 October 1994, Maria Minor Kirche, Utrecht
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 74321 935532 [63.50]

Jan Zelenka and and Johann Pisendel were contemporaries of Bach, and each of them enjoyed notable careers and contributed music of lasting value to the legacy of the baroque era. The skilfully performed compositions collected on this disc from Deutsche Harmonia Mundi therefore make most welcome additions to the catalogue.

Zelenka hailed from Bohemia, and after beginning his career in Prague moved to become a double bass player (and composer) in the royal ensemble at Dresden. His years of study took in visits to both Vienna and Venice, making him well aware of current musical trends. In due course his career brought him back to Prague. His entry in Grove proclaims that his music ‘is notable for its adventurousness, its contrapuntal mastery and its harmonic invention’.

The titles of the three pieces gathered here confirm Zelenka’s interest in contrapuntal procedures, since the number of parts among the ensemble is given a high priority. Herein lie the contrasts and interest of the music, rather than in the more popular function of solo and tutti concerto writing. The music repays careful attention, particularly in the extended Simphonie à 8 Concertanti which has some music that develops on an ambitious scale, not least the opening movement, taken here at a sensibly shaped Allegro tempo (Zelenka left no tempo indication).

Pisendel was one of the foremost violinists of his day, and the D major solo concerto must have been intended as a vehicle for his artistry. He worked at Dresden from as early as 1712, and must have been well established there by the time of Zelenka’s arrival in the city. However, his position as concert master was not confirmed until 1730, and it is a reflection of the esteem in which he was held that his contractual duties left him time to tour widely around the German states.

Pisendel is heard to excellent effect in this concerto, which unusually for its time mixes wind and brass instruments among the orchestral ensemble in a baroque violin concerto. The results are satisfying because the timbres and balances are so well judged. This is itself a tribute to the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, of course, whose director Gottfried von der Goltz is a reliable judge of phrasing and tempi.

The sound is clear and nicely atmospheric, although violin tone might become a little wearing on the ear if the whole programme is sampled in a single sitting. Better to take the music one piece at a time.

With thorough and well presented documentation, this disc does good service to two composers whose music deserves wider recognition.

Terry Barfoot


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