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CD: Crotchet

Carles BAGUER (1768-1808)
Symphony No. 2 in C minor [14:45]
Concerto for two bassoons in F major [12:58]
Symphony No. 16 in G major [9:42]
Symphony No. 15 in E flat major [10:31]
attrib to Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphony in C major [11:05]
Josep Borras; Charles Cristobal (bassoons)
Acadèmia 1750 (Orquestra Històrica del Festival de Torroella)/Farran James
rec. Barcelona, 7-8 November 2008
COLUMNA MÚSICA 1CM0210 [58:39]
Experience Classicsonline

There has been something of an industry in recent years in recordings of symphonies by the contemporaries of Mozart and Haydn, many of them previously little more than names. Whilst few have suggested that posterity has got its overall judgment wrong they have brought to light much entertaining and enjoyable music which is worth hearing in itself as well as providing a fascinating context for the works of their better known peers. Chandos have already issued a single disc of Baguer’s Symphonies in their ‘Contemporaries of Mozart’ series. I have not heard it but it only duplicates Symphony No. 16, one of the less striking works on this disc which can therefore be welcomed as providing a useful addition to the catalogue.

Carles Baguer was born in Barcelona in 1768 and became well known in that city for his skills as an organist; indeed he followed his uncle as the cathedral organist when he was only 21 and had already been filling the post informally for nearly three years. About one hundred and fifty of his works survive, about half for organ and the rest including chamber music and an opera as well as twenty Symphonies. The works of Haydn were often played in Catalonia where there was an earlier tradition of writing Italian Overtures or Symphonies. It is the Symphonies of Haydn, especially those from his middle period, which are the most obvious comparison in terms of style with the present works although they are by no means lacking in individuality. In many ways No. 2, the first on the disc, is the most striking. The minor key and terse motifs are reminiscent of Haydn’s sturm und drang works, but it has a character all of its own, less fraught than Haydn but well and imaginatively constructed. Symphonies 15 and 16 share these characteristics but are perhaps less memorable and more conventional in their manner, although like all the Symphonies on this disc they are admirably brief and to the point.

The Concerto for two bassoons is a curiosity on account of its scoring and its construction in only two movements - a conventional first movement and a Polacca finale. The two soloists here have both have a delightfully dry tone as well as all the necessary skills for the at times florid writing. If the tone and manner means that much of the result sounds like two elderly gentlemen putting the world to rights in a public bar, the Concerto nonetheless retains its individuality whatever its limitations in terms of musical invention. The Symphony attributed to Haydn - like so many other works of the period - is somewhat conventional in manner and at times even dull, albeit not overlong. Its composer remains uncertain although Baguer is a possibility.

Acadèmia 1750, as the period instrument orchestra is now known, was formed for the Music Festival of Torroella de Montgri. They play stylishly and enthusiastically and are well recorded. The very helpful booklet in Spanish and English with the disc concludes by remarking that Baguer’s works “enjoyed the favour of this contemporaries and today they can be heard everywhere”. That may be true in Spain I fear that it is scarcely the case elsewhere at present, but perhaps this well played and presented disc will help to rectify this. I certainly hope so as it has left me curious to hear more of his works. Perhaps one of the specialist organ companies might oblige with a selection of his organ music. In the meantime this disc has given me great pleasure.

John Sheppard 


















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