The name of Johann Baptist Georg Neruda may not
immediately ring a bell, although he is not unknown. His 'trumpet
concerto' in E flat - which is in fact written for a 'corno
da caccia' - belongs to the standard repertoire of trumpeters.
Usually his Christian name is spelled the Bohemian way: Jan
Křtitel Jiří. But many musicians from that region
worked in central Germany, and therefore they are also known
with the German equivalent of their Christian names.
It is rather peculiar that the horn/trumpet concerto
is virtually the only work which is still part of the repertoire.
It is one of only two solo concertos for a wind instrument.
The other is the bassoon concerto recorded here. As Neruda was
a violinist by profession he mostly composed for his own instrument,
including ten solo concertos. In addition we know of 36 symphonies
from his pen, which is an indication that he is a representative
of the era between the baroque and the classical.
As a person and as a musician he wasn't universally
acclaimed. Neruda tried to become a member of the court orchestra
in Dresden, where Johann Georg Pisendel had been the Konzertmeister
since 1728. Pisendel was rather critical of Neruda, who had
"drunk deeply from the Italian cup", referring to
the strong Italian influence on Neruda's music. It is a curious
remark: Pisendel had been in Venice and was close friends with
Vivaldi, who wrote several works for him. In Pisendel's own
violin concertos there is an unmistakable Italian influence
as well. But Pisendel was also a product of the German violin
school, in which polyphony played an important role, which is
mostly absent from Neruda's music. But he also had problems
with Neruda's personality, calling him an "unsociable and
peculiar person". According to Pisendel he was uncommunicative
and had a high opinion of himself.
He had no doubts about Neruda's skills as a performer
and composer, though. Neruda, in his search for employment,
got in touch with Telemann who then asked Pisendel what his
opinions of him were. But what Neruda really wanted was to be
part of the court orchestra in Dresden. And after having written
an application to the king, he was appointed violinist in the
orchestra, "probably against Pisendel's will", as
Kai Köpp assumes in his programme notes.
In the centre of the programme is the bassoon
concerto which is a nice piece of music, which gives the soloist
plenty of opportunities to show his skills. In the slow movement
he is expected to give a taste of his ability to ornament the
solo part. Sergio Azzolini's performance leaves nothing to be
desired. The concerto is performed here with single strings,
and assuming this concerto was written for performance in Dresden
I think a larger scoring had been more appropriate.
The rest of the programme consists of four trio
sonatas for two violins and b.c. They are from the only collection
of trio sonatas by Neruda which was printed during his lifetime
(in 1764). He wrote at least 33 trio sonatas, one of the most
popular genres in Germany in his time. Although one may assume
he wrote these works for his own use he also must have taken
the market of amateur musicians into account as the violin parts
are not overly virtuosic. They are written in the galant idiom,
and the two violin parts are treated as equals. They often play
in parallel thirds and sixths, and regularly imitate each other.
All are in three movements, breaking away from the pattern of
the sonata da chiesa with its four movements, which had been
dominant in the baroque era. But only the Trio Sonata No. 6
embraces the 'modern' fashion of opening with a slow movement,
followed by two fast movements.
Musically these chamber works are most enjoyable
to listen to. The melodic material is pleasant and nicely worked
out. One could argue that this music probably needs a very good
performance to really blossom, and that is what it receives
here. In this repertoire the performers are expected to add
ornamentation, to play the slow movements with feeling and to
explore the contrasts between and within the movements. And
that is what the players of Parnassi musici do quite brilliantly.
The booklet contains a list of their recordings, and it shows
that they have a preference for little-known repertoire. The
works by Neruda certainly belong to this category.
Is this music indispensable and not to be missed?
No, that would be an exaggeration. But I am grateful to the
musicians who have come up with this very fine disc which I
have greatly enjoyed. I particularly liked the two last trio
sonatas on this disc; the andante of the Trio Sonata
No. 2 which is played with muted strings is very expressive.
And a recording of a bassoon concerto is always welcome, in
particular if it is of this quality and is performed as well
Johan van Veen