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Franz Anton HOFFMEISTER (1754-1812)
Viola Concerto in D major [20.48]
Carl STAMITZ (1745-1801)

Viola Concerto No.1 in D major [21.13]
Carl Friedrich ZELTER (1758-1832)

Viola Concerto in E flat major [19.56]
Hariolf Schlichtig (viola and director)
Munich Chamber Orchestra
Recorded in the studios of Bavarian Radio, Munich, 2000-2001
TUDOR 7087 [61.58]
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These three concertos make ideal disc mates. All the composers were born within thirteen years of each other and though stylistically there may be a diversity of affinities the programming nevertheless makes perfect sense.

Stamitz’s concerto is one of the very best known and admired from the period and one that’s garnered a small crop of recordings. In its warm, excellently crafted way it affords numerous opportunities for the venturesome violist. It bears a certain kinship with the concerted works of Monn, though it also shows awareness of Mannheim, and has a buoyant profile. Its high point is the lyric slow movement though I found Franz Beyer’s cadenzas rather overlong.

Hoffmeister’s Concerto is slightly less well known these days than used to be the case now that Stamitz seems convincingly to have overtaken the fluent Rothenburg-born composer in popularity. Still it has its own strongly Classically orientated charms and is topped by its Allegro finale, full of bold horn harmonies and, if one discounts some generic orchestral writing, plenty of opportunities for the soloist to show off fast passagework. It sounds in spirit very close to a Mozart concerto finale. In the slow movement I felt that the orchestral textures were rather too opaque and that a conductor might have separated them and brought a degree of textual aeration.

Zelter is by a long chalk the least well known of the trio of composers. The opening of his concerto possesses a rather brusque if ultimately conformist spirit and sports another overlong cadenza. But the slow movement takes us to different, more intriguing realms. This has a hushed intensity and a certain classical gravity that puts one in mind of an operatic scena – Gluck, if you like, re-clothed. The finale owes something to Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante finale – bouncing, with witty ritards, and some orchestral winnowing down of heft to a quintet-like sonority. If the opening movement had been sharper and etched more confidently this could really have been an outstanding discovery. As it is it’s a splendid addition to the repertoire and well worth getting to know, especially if you only know Zelter as a composer for the voice.

Tabea Zimmermann has recorded the Stamitz (Hyperion) as has Ernst Wallfisch, with Faerber on Vox. The outstanding Czech violist Jan Pěruška has also recorded it for Panton, and there’s a Wolfram Christ traversal on Schwann – and Christ is worth hearing in anything. Of the Hoffmeister you could do much worse than Caussé on EMI though the splendid Faerber has conducted it for Nakariakov on Teldec. No one has a rival Zelter in the current catalogue.

That being the case I’d encourage you to hear it in a sympathetic and affectionate performance such as this. The accent in this disc is on warmth – tonal and timbral – and you will derive a lot of pleasure from it.


Jonathan Woolf



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