Musical Treasures from Lancut - Concertos
Jean-Baptiste KRUMPHOLTZ (1747-1790)
Harp Concerto no.6, op.9 (c.1785) [27:00]
Giacomo CONTI (1754-1805)
Violin Concerto no.1 in E flat, op.4 (1790) [23:10]
Johann Rudolf ZUMSTEEG (1760-1802)
Cello Concerto in A [22:20]
# Full Performers: Joanna Supranowicz (harp); Robert Nasciszewski (violin); Tomasz Strahl (cello)
Rzeszˇw Chamber Orchestra/Grzegorz Oliwa
rec. Lancut Castle, Poland. No date given. DDD
DUX 0785 [71:23]

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 performance throughout.

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.

Byzantion

Variously likeable and mellifluous and appealing.