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Karl von ORDONEZ (1734-1786)
Sinfonia in A major (Brown A4) [9:42]
Sinfonia in G minor (Brown Gm7) [10:05]
Sinfonia in C major (Brown C2) [13:12]
Sinfonia in B minor (Brown Bm1) [13:33]
Sinfonia in G minor (Brown Gm8) [15:22]
Toronto Camerata/Kevin Mallon
rec. 9-11 January 2004, Grace Church-on-the-Hill, Toronto.
NAXOS 8.557482 [61:53]

The symphonies of Karl von Ordonez have been studied and catalogued by A. Peter Brown - hence the catalogue numbers above. Anyone wanting to know more of Ordonez’s work as a symphonist should seek out Brown’s long article, ‘The Symphonies of Carlo d’Ordonez: A Contribution to the History of Viennese Instrumental Music during the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century’, which was published in volume XII of the Haydn Yearbook in 1981. This enterprising CD from Naxos has very useful notes by Allan Badley.
Born in Vienna, Ordonez may have been the illegitimate son of an aristocrat, and seems to have been able to live and work as a member of the minor nobility. He never became a professional musician – which would have been inappropriate to his social standing – though he was certainly an accomplished violinist and was associated with a number of the musical societies of Vienna. His name crops up quite frequently in detailed accounts of Haydn’s life and works. As well as more than seventy symphonies, Ordonez’s other compositions included string quartets, a violin concerto and – particularly intriguing – a parody opera, Alceste, which was frequently performed at Esterhazy.
Manuscripts of Ordonez’s symphonies survive in quite a number of European libraries, some of them well beyond Austria, testifying to their relative popularity. Works by him have sometimes been attributed to Haydn himself, to J.C. Bach or to Viennese contemporaries such as Vanhal and Hofmann – which gives a pretty good idea of the stylistic territory they occupy.
Most of his symphonic writing is dominated by the strings. Occasionally he gives horns and oboes some relatively prominent roles. Most of his symphonies seem to have been written before the mid-1770s. Though he did make some use of the four-movement form, all five of the symphonies on this disc are in three movements, and all employ two quicker movements framing a slow movement. This is true even of the Sinfonia in C major, though its first movement is misleadingly marked ‘adagio’ – when only the introduction to the movement can sensibly be so described.
On this showing Ordonez had no great gift for the creation of distinctive or memorable melodies. Pleasure more often comes from the alertness of his rhythms and from a certain inventiveness in his use of orchestral sonorities. In the Sinfonia in C major, the attractive slow movement has concertante roles for violin and cello; the second of the two G minor symphonies (Brown Gm8) has some delightful writing for the oboes in the outer movements and for the violas – of which he seems to have been particularly fond – in its central andante.
None of this music digs very deep or challenges the listener. Elegance and grace are more prominent features than power or passion. But within its limitations this is attractive and charming music which makes for pleasant listening. Kevin Mallon and the Toronto Camerata give thoroughly sympathetic performances, convincingly idiomatic and appropriately delicate and persuasive.

Glyn Pursglove


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