Antonín REICHENAUER (1694?-1730)
Bassoon Concerto in C major [11:44]
Concerto for Oboe and Bassoon in B flat major [12:30]
Violin Concerto in C minor [8:34]
Oboe Concerto in G major [10:25]
Bassoon Concerto in G minor [10:30]
Overture in B flat major [14:37]
Sergio Azzolini (bassoon); Xenia Löffler (oboe); Lenka Torgersen (violin)
Collegium 1704/Václav Luks
rec. 31 August-2 September, 2010, Domovina Studio, Prague, Czech Republic
SUPRAPHON SU 4035-2 [68:20]
If you’ve ever wondered what the music of Prague sounded like in Bach’s time, Supraphon’s brand-new series of “Music from Eighteenth-Century Prague” is just the ticket. Even if you hadn’t given the idea much consideration, though, please do: Antonín Reichenauer turns out to be a composer of wholly enjoyable, well-crafted music with decided Italianate influences, and the production here is first-rate.
Reichenauer (d. 1730; birth year is unclear) was a court musician and then court composer to Count Wenzel Morzin, a local nobleman whose tastes leaned southwards to the Italian concerto style. In fact, Morzin was the dedicatee of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons! By the time Antonín Reichenauer assumed the composer-in-residence position with Morzin’s band, he would have performed in all of the Vivaldi Op 8 concertos, as well as a good deal more by the Venetian, since Vivaldi had been appointed as Morzin’s “Maestro di Musica in Italia”. The influence here shows, both in the choice of solo instruments - Vivaldi’s dozens of bassoon concertos clearly inspire the four concertante works on this CD with bassoon soloist - and in general style: snappy, appealing tunes, soulful adagios bookended by sprightly quick movements, excellent dialogue between soloists and ensemble.
None of the six works here lasts longer than fifteen minutes, and only two top 12:00, but they benefit from the conciseness, staying perpetually fresh. The two bassoon concertos are notable for the Vivaldi influence and the C major work’s marvelous adagio; we also have a concerto and an overture, both in B flat, for oboe, bassoon, and strings (the overture adds a second oboist). These are pleasingly well-done with fine exchanges between the wind players; the overture’s first movement is the most substantial musical work on the disc, to fine effect, alternating rather wittily between a stately episode and much livelier companion material. The C minor violin concerto is excellent: the violinist receives a melancholy opening tune accompanied by surprisingly active cellos, and performer Lenka Torgersen adds highly effective portamenti and ornamentations. Xenia Löffler’s oboe turns a bit sour at the end of her concerto’s first movement, but that’s a minor blemish on a work where the bassoon makes an unexpected reappearance for a slow-movement duet.
All this is a serious academic undertaking by performers and label; harpsichordist-director Václav Luks is one of three researchers who have transcribed the concertos from the manuscripts, which had to be found in various collections across Europe - the violin concerto bears no composer’s name, but is on paper identical to the other extant Reichenauer manuscripts. Their work, part of Supraphon’s ongoing project, is really beyond reproach, especially with such lively performances — certainly the adjective “academic” cannot be used in its pejorative sense.
The playing is exemplary, as Collegium 1704 are a characterful, always attractive period ensemble of modest size but considerable prowess; you’ll know this if you’ve heard their stunning Zelenka Missa votiva. A theorbo adds character to the bass parts and keyboardist Luks wheels out a small organ for the violin and G minor bassoon concertos. The three soloists — Sergio Azzolini on bassoon, Xenia Löffler on oboe, and Lenka Torgersen on violin — are superb; I would usually try to single one of them out for special praise, but it is hard to do so when all three are so deserving. Marvelous sound and a good booklet read seal the deal. Baroque enthusiasts will love this.
Baroque enthusiasts will love this: was Reichenauer the Vivaldi of Prague?