Johann STAMITZ (1717-1757)
Flute Concertos: D major [17:04]; C major [21:23]; D major [16:47]; G major [13:59]
Robert Aitken (flute)
St Christopher Chamber Orchestra/Donatas Katkus
rec. 22-24 June 2006, St Catherine’s Concet Hall, Vilnius, Lithuania. DDD
NAXOS 8.570150 [69:15]
Johann Stamitz was a respected violinist, as well as being a composer and conductor. He is probably best known for his association with the famous orchestra in Mannheim, where he was employed from 1741 and developed a career that began as a violinist and worked through various positions, including as the first director of instrumental music, finally to become Kapellmeister. As a composer, he is associated with the development of the symphony and of orchestral technique which was an integral part of the Mannheim legacy. His sons, Carl and Anton both became well known composers.
This disc contains four of his fourteen flute concertos, composed for the players of the Mannheim Orchestra, most notably Johann Baptist Wendling, who later became associated with Mozart. The concertos are excellent examples of late baroque style, and the transition to the classical era. The orchestral writing demonstrates the resources available in Mannheim at the time. The flute parts are technically demanding and full of agile semiquaver runs, all of which are flawlessly executed. This virtuosity can also be heard in the orchestral parts, as the opening of the C major concerto demonstrates, with light triplet figures and trills infusing the extended introduction.
Each of the concertos has a distinct character, with bright fast movements and expressive central adagios. Sequences and repeated phrases are featured throughout, and well placed ornamentation adds to the florid nature of the melodic lines. There are some wonderful examples of this in the last movement of the C major concerto. Stamitz’s orchestration creates a rich string sound, with a relatively heavy bass line and additional colour and melodic interest provided by horns.
The first movement of the second D major concerto on the disc has distinct parallels with the D major flute concerto which is attributed to Haydn, including the opening melodic motif. There is an elegance of style within the rhythmic writing which gives a sense of poise to the music, especially in the three beats in a bar finale.
The playing in this recording is generally good. Robert Aitken is an able soloist who displays good technical control throughout. There is some enjoyable phrasing in the slow movements, and his tone quality is pure, sweet and uncomplicated, always serving the music and never sounding forced or over indulged. The fast movements possess a good sense of energy and exuberant display of technique. The orchestra has a rich and well balanced sound, and there is good ensemble playing discipline. The recording has a pleasant amount of reverb, which brings warmth to the overall sound.
Enjoyable phrasing and a pure, sweet, uncomplicated tone quality balanced with a good sense of energy and exuberant display.
see also review by John-Pierre Joyce