Antonio SALIERI (1750-1825)
La Veneziana
Concerto for oboe, violin, cello and orchestra in D (Triple Concerto) (1774) [25:02]
Concerto for flute, oboe and orchestra in C (1774) [19:09]
Symphony in D for chamber orchestra (‘La Veneziana’) (1778) [9:10]
Lajos Lencsés (oboe); János Bálint (flute); Béla Bánfalvi (violin); Károly Botvay (cello)
Budapest Strings/Béla Bánfalvi
rec. Budapest Rathaus, February, April and May 1994. DDD
previously released as Capriccio C10530
CAPRICCIO 5087 [53:21]
This recording was first released in 1995. I’m pleased that Capriccio have reissued it now but a 53-minute CD is no better value now than it was 16 years ago, even with a much brighter more eye-catching front cover. Subscribers to the Naxos Music Library can listen to that earlier version with its much plainer cover and compare it with the recordings from Naxos and Chandos which I mention below.
All the music here dates from Salieri’s early period of employment in Vienna. It’s all attractive enough to banish the impression which has held sway for far too long that his music is boring and incompetent - an impression originally fostered by Leopold Mozart rather than his son, with whom Salieri appears to have been on good terms. Forget the film Amadeus - excellent drama but a travesty of history.
The highlight of the CD is the short chamber-symphony La Veneziana which gives its name to the recording as a whole, derived from the opera la Scuola de’gelosi, a work written for the Venetian Carnival, hence the masked lady on the CD cover. When it was performed at Esterháza in 1780 Haydn conducted it.
The Triple Concerto is much less adventurous but still very attractive. The slow movement offers opportunities for each of the soloists in turn to shine, but the finale is rather too close to the kind of routine composition which Mozart parodies in his Musical Joke. I note, however, that no less an authority on the music of the period than H.C. Robbins Landon thought the work as a whole deft and entertaining in the manner of the music which Haydn had composed in the previous decade.
The Concerto for flute and oboe falls somewhere between the other two works in terms of inspiration. I marginally preferred this performance to the slightly heavier version conducted by Richard Hickox on Chandos (CHAN 9051), coupled with the Mozart flute and harp concerto, of which most collectors will already have a recording.
The Budapest Strings have a good track-record in music of the baroque and classical periods, with a number of excellent releases to their credit - a recommendable version of Vivaldi’s Op. 8/5-8, 10-12, for example (8.550189). Soloists, orchestra, leader and artistic director alike contribute to a very successful recording. As portrayed in the booklet, the Budapest Strings are a small ensemble - 16 in all - but the rather large-scale recording makes them sound more numerous.
The quality of the music, performances and recording combine to add to my enjoyment of this issue. If only Capriccio could have found more music to boost the playing time or reissued it at a lower price, my appreciation would have been almost complete.
If you also enjoy it, your next step should be Matthias Bamert’s recording of Salieri’s music with the London Mozart Players on Chandos CHAN9877* - see review and May 2011/2 Download Roundup - though that will mean that you will find yourself with two versions of La Veneziana.
There’s also a Naxos recording of Salieri Overtures - not including La Veneziana - which Harry Downey thought ‘show the composer in a good light, helped by a decent recording and playing. Not to be played through one after the other but as a reminder of a man unfairly treated by posterity they serve their purpose.’ (8.554838 - see 3-star review).
* Also available with music by other Contemporaries of Mozart on a USB memory stick, CHUSB0002, equivalent to 12 CDs.
Brian Wilson 

Short value but well worth hearing.