Records continue to explore lesser-known Classical repertoire.
1922 complete edition of Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians
does not even contain an entry for Vanhal which goes to demonstrate
just how his music fell out of favour for so many years. I
have nevertheless managed to unearth a few biographical details.
He was born in Nechanice in Bohemia 1739 out of Czech peasant
stock who were indentured to the Schaffgotsch estates. Despite
his unprivileged beginnings he was able to provide for himself
by working as an organist and as choirmaster in local townships.
found himself a wealthy sponsor when the Countess Schaffgotsch
heard him performing on the violin and persuaded him to move
to Vienna around 1760. There he obtained lessons from the
eminent violinist and composer Karl von Dittersdorf who as
an associate of Haydn and Gluck was extremely well connected.
A highly prolific composer in most genres it was said that
Vanhal was the first composer to earn his living entirely
from writing and performing music. Eventually his music became
much admired and was widely performed. For a time Vanhal toured
extensively around Europe and he moved in the most exalted
of musical circles. I am fascinated by the anecdote that at
a recital in Vienna in 1784 organised by the composer Stephen
Storace, Vanhal played the cello in a string quartet with
Haydn as first violin, Von Dittersdorf second violin and Mozart
on viola. Having broken free from the indentures of his family’s
serfdom and having achieved considerable fame in his chosen
vocation for the final thirty or so years of his life it seems
that Vanhal progressively withdrew from public life and died
in Vienna in 1813.
composed a substantial number of concertos although to ascertain
the actual number does not seem currently possible as I am
not aware of any comprehensive cataloguing of his scores and
it is rare to obtain composition dates. In addition to his
renowned prowess on the violin Vanhal evidently played several
other instruments. As he wrote a substantial number of concertos
for woodwind it is thought that he was able to play various
wind instruments and certainly these four concertos demonstrate
a clear understanding and predilection for woodwind.
four talented performers clearly have the full measure of
this repertoire and the accompaniment is commendable. An impressive
feature of these performances is the highly impressive timbre
provided by each of the players which the sound engineers
the Bassoon Concerto we are not informed which of the
two bassoonists is performing. Luc Loubry wrote the cadenza
so it would seem likely that he is the performer of his own
music. In the Bassoon Concerto I was immediately impressed
with the superb tone from the bassoon, although one can clearly
hear the operation of the keys this didn’t detract too much
from my enjoyment. Our steadfast soloist is whimsical in the
opening allegro and provides a sensitive reading of
the tender adagio movement. To close the work I really
enjoyed the fresh and lively interpretation of the rondo,
Michel Lethiec in the Clarinet Concerto is an expressive
and stalwart performer as displayed in the noble opening movement
allegro. Lethiec’s playing of the adagio is
eloquent and good humoured in the lyrical closing rondo,
allegretto. The Oboe Concerto is outstandingly
performed. I was highly impressed with his fluent reading
of the courtly and melodic allegro moderato that opens
the score. Van Bockstal’s playing is deeply felt in the adagio
and briskly immediate in the light-hearted closing movement
presto. The Double Bassoon Concerto performed
by Luc Loubry and Francois Baptiste is clearly an excellent
score that deserves to be heard far more frequently. The duo
are authoritative with an impressive unity in the demanding
and lengthy thirteen minute opening movement allegro moderato.
I was highly delighted with their responsive reading of the
rather serious lyricism of the andante grazioso and
in the good humoured finale, allegro their playing
is breezy and compelling.
no details of the recording location and dates are provided
I can report a crisp and clear, well-balanced sound quality.
The content of the booklet notes is very disappointing which
rather detracts from the presentation.
superbly performed and recorded Classic Talent release should
suit those looking for something different from a rarely heard
composer who was a contemporary of Haydn and Mozart.