The three works on this disc come from the archives of the music
library at Lancut Castle in Poland, from a collection begun
in the late 18th century by wealthy patron of the arts Izabella
Lubomirska. The three composers have little in common, other
than that they all wrote concertos for their instrument, and
that they died young.
Krumpholtz is a composer with an interesting biography. Despite
his Franco-German name, he was Bohemian, changing his name from
Jan Krtitel to Jean-Baptiste in the 1770s after he returned
to France for the last time. His surname often appears as the
Germanised "Krumpholz". His date of birth is widely
given as 1742 - possibly because that is what Wikipedia
gives, but Grove Music Online gives 1747 - the cited
references being more convincing in Grove's case (one
source listed in their bibliography may even be telling: 'U.
Rempel: "The Perils of Secondary Sources: an Annotated
Bibliography of Encyclopedic and Dictionary Sources Relating
to the Harpist Members of the Krumpholtz Family"'). Krumpholtz
drowned himself in the Seine after his second wife, who was
only seventeen, half his age, when they married, eloped with
a lover; his first wife had died in childbirth.
Krumpholtz is very strongly associated with the harp, which
he learned to play as a boy. Both his wives were daughters of
harp-makers. In fact his second wife, Anne-Marie Krumpholtz,
went on to become a virtuoso and composer of harp music herself.
Jean-Baptiste was the most acclaimed harpist of his time, and
wrote extensively - indeed almost exclusively - for the instrument,
including more than 40 sonatas and 6 concertos, of which the
one featured on this CD is the last.
Krumpholtz's harp music and the innovations he made to harp
design were instrumental in the rapid improvements in technique
and expansion of harp repertoire in the late 18th century and
beyond. In the Harp Concerto no.6, op.9, both the solo
and orchestral writing are unvirtuosic, Krumpholtz preferring
instead a simpler, archetypically Classical whole, making for
a likeable, mellifluous concerto, ably performed by Joanna Supranowicz.
The German composer Johann Zumsteeg is known, if at all nowadays,
for his vocal music, which constituted the bulk of his compositions.
His lieder and ballades were greatly admired by the young Franz
Schubert. But as a court cellist he also wrote numerous concertos
for his instrument, ten of which have survived, written between
1777 and 1792. The Cello Concerto in A, reminiscent of
Luigi Boccherini, is a widely appealing work, particularly the
doleful second movement and the imaginative, optimistic finale.
Even less is known about the Italian Giacomo Conti, other than
that he spent much of his life in Austria. He wrote three violin
concertos, although the third is presumed lost. The Violin
Concerto no.1 in E flat, op.4 is an appealing, if somewhat
superficial, work - reminiscent of Mozart's earliest in places
- its numerous tricky soloist passages made light work of by
Robert Nasciszewski. The rondo finale is cheerful and memorable.
The Rzeszˇw Chamber Orchestra is not one of Europe's finest,
but given its limited resources it gives a more than adequate
The sound quality is outstanding, with an intelligent placement
of microphones. The booklet has a quality feel about it, with
glossy pages, good legibility and nice photos. Things take a
turn for the worse when one reads the notes, the English-language
version of which is clearly translated from the Polish by a
Pole with a reasonable but imperfect knowledge of English. This
leads at times to rather dubious renditions, such as: "She
[Supranowicz] often performs compositions from the Muzeum-Zanek
Library in Lancut because she wants to propagate and show the
beauty of unknown music." The notes on the performers are
little more than lists of what they did and where, with nothing
left out - so we learn that conductor Oliwa is, among other
things, "director of Zygmunt Mycielski's 1st Degree Music
State School in Strzyzˇw", and that Nasciszewski is "a
teacher at Music Schools Group no.1 in Rzeszˇw".
Finally, and somewhat unsettlingly, the notes on the three composers
are, according to the booklet, "based on The New Grove
Dictionary of Music and Musicians." In fact they are almost
exact copies, with numerous non-native errors thrown in. It
seems unlikely that Oxford Music will be happy with this
republication of their research, because either it is done without
permission, or, if it was sanctioned, there is simply no explaining
the mistakes and schoolboyish attempts at paraphrasing.
It would also have helped marketing if birth and death dates
had been given - a CD with three relatively obscure composers
and no obvious indication of time period on the cover cries
out for them.