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Karl von ORDONEZ (1734-1786)
Symphonies
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. DDD
NAXOS 8.557482 [61:53]

Here is a very pleasant discovery; one of many in the Naxos catalogue. Artaria Editions, which has published the scores performed here, has a standing partnership with Naxos in releasing the works of the 18th century, such as those by Ditter von Dittersdorf, Carl and Johann Stamitz, and Johann Baptist Vanhal.  It is likely that very few will be familiar with Karl von Ordonez or his musical output. There remain quite a few holes in his biography, especially regarding his education and musical training.  His, it appears, was not a heavily-documented life.  Glyn Pursglove, who has also reviewed this disc (see below), has helpful information to that end.  What is generally known is that his stature in society — that of lower nobility — served as a sizable obstacle to any sort of pursuit as a professional musician, a position that would be thought beneath his station.  Doomed, essentially, to be an amateur, he created quite a few works, considering that they were all done outside his duties in the Lower Austrian Court.
 
Though amateur, he was no dabbler.  The pieces presented on this disc show Ordonez’s great talent both as orchestrator and at writing eminently listenable and greatly enjoyable musical statements.  Much of his considerable output is now lost, such as his church music, but recent interest in Ordonez’s works has documented 73 symphonies and 27 string quartets.  The symphonies share a sort of middle ground between the playful sonorities of Mozart and the contrapuntal element of Bach.  The lovely Sinfonia in C begins with a slow introductory statement that launches into a spry and sunny section with inventive changes.  The Larghetto that follows features a beautiful solo for the first violin, played meltingly by Marie Berard — this is a lovely movement of serenity.  The third movement retains the Larghetto’s triple meter in a stately and graceful dance-like melody in which the oboe flirts charmingly with the violin part. 
 
Though this disc carries only a very small sample of his works, if it is representative, Ordonez did not share Mozart’s affinity to the key of D — none here are in that key and one even finds oneself in the unusual key of B minor.  The minor mode stays over each of the movements in the B minor symphony, including the last, which has brief moments of brightness but maintains its stern outlook through to the end.
 
The composition date of the final Sinfonia on this disc is not known, but it is certainly a polished piece. The development section of the first movement artfully carries us through a number of interesting turns before bringing us back to the familiar territory of the first theme.  The slow middle movement, as with others on this disc, is the graceful and serene focal point to the work, with the lower strings engaging in duets while the violins state the main theme.  The concise final Allegro snaps us back into minor mode as the theme is pursued first by the violins and oboe, then by the strings.
 
All of the music on this disc is enjoyable and shows a comfortable grasp of orchestral colour portrayed through a somewhat limited palette.  I agree with Glyn Pursglove that the music doesn’t really take us under the surface or indicate much depth.  It is, however, very pleasant listening, and the Toronto Camerata with Kevin Mallon give us a clean and enjoyable performance, as well as an eloquent and emphatic statement for these works.  Considering the quality of both this recording and the mounting interest in Ordonez’s large catalogue of works, it is hoped that we shall see more Ordonez discs like this one. 
 
David Blomenberg

see also review by Glyn Pursglove


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