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Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphony no.49 in F minor (1768) [24:18]
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Serenade in E minor, op.20 (1892) [11:19]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto no.12 in A, KV.414 (1782) [25:21]
Ingrid Andsnes (piano)
Telemark Chamber Orchestra/Lars-Erik ter Jung
rec. Sofienbergkirke, Oslo. 8-10 October 2010. DDD
FABRA FBRCD 07 [60:58]

Experience Classicsonline

Why the Telemark Chamber Orchestra chose this particular programme for only their second CD on Norwegian independent label Fabra is something of a puzzle. The album bears the title 'La Passione', the nickname of the opening work, Haydn's Symphony no.49. But in these three works the orchestra has massive competition from a multitude of recordings, and the truth is that they do not perform here with very much passion.

In fairness to the ensemble and conductor Lars-Erik ter Jung, however, the flatness of the playing throughout this disc is at least partially the fault of the recording, which is described on the cover as 'True Stereo' - but that is only half the story. Unusually for a non-studio setting, there is virtually no background noise; nor is there much in the way of reverberation, a fact which seems at odds with the church venue. This, and the two-dimensionality of the strings in particular may well be attributable to zealous mastering: the whole recording has the inescapable muddy feeling of 'lossy' digitisation or heavy-handed noise filtration.

Haydn's Symphony no.49 in F minor comes from his so-called 'Sturm und Drang' period, but despite dogged stories attached to the work, arising from Victorian suppositions - perpetuated in the CD booklet - 'La Passione' is no more than another asinine nickname linked to another Haydn symphony that has little to do with the music. Despite the key, which all four movements unusually begin in, there is nothing particularly dark or tragic about the work, and nor is there anything ecclesiastical about it, aside from the fact that this was Haydn's last symphony in the old sonata da chiesa slow-fast-slow-fast format. In fact, in one edition the work was described as "the good-natured Quaker", most likely after a popular stage comedy of the time!

Ter Jung takes the orchestra through the work with little overall enthusiasm, although they do perk up a little in the fast movements. The Telemark give their best performance in Elgar's Serenade in E minor, Op. 20, which seems rather out of place sitting between two Viennese Classics. Elgar once indicated that this relatively early work was his personal favourite; the pastoral nostalgic serenity of the Larghetto in particular is undeniably beautiful, giving tantalising glimpses of many greater works still to come. Alas, though, much of the typical lushness of Elgar's strings is lost to the recording process. For no obvious reason the track listing refers to this work as 'Serenade' (i.e. with scare quotes).

Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 12 in A, KV. 414 is one of his finest middle-period concertos. It is one of a 'set' of three, with KV.413 and 415 (nos. 11 and 13), which Mozart describes in a letter to his father as: "a happy medium between what is too easy and too difficult; they are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural, without being vapid. There are passages here and there from which the connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction; but these passages are written in such a way that the less learned cannot fail to be pleased, though without knowing why..."

Mozart was not quite "at the height of his powers as a composing piano virtuoso," as the liner notes claim, but this is still a lovely work. The five winds are hardly used - this is almost a piano concerto with string orchestra, and indeed Mozart also prepared a version for piano with string quartet for the three concertos. The second movement, an Andante in D, is particularly poignant - a year previously Mozart had been deeply affected by the death of his friend Johann Christian Bach, and the main theme here is similar to that in Bach's overture to his own La Calamit dei Cuori - this is therefore very likely a tribute. The booklet notes erroneously state that Mozart's quotation is in the first movement.

Ingrid Andsnes - no relation to Leif Ove, although she was once a pupil of his - plays well, and the brighter tone of the piano livens up the strings, but there is nothing that recommends this interpretation over countless others.

The CD case is made of card, with a standard plastic tray for the disc. The booklet slides in between two layers of card, the front cover itself and the inside cover, which shows the Telemark CO posing with their instruments in colour. The booklet itself is of a simple but attractive design, reasonably informative in a standard kind of way, with the odd lapse into slightly strange English.



















































































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