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Antonio SALIERI (1750-1825)
Ouverture prima (1785) [3:48]
Ouverture seconda (1785) [4:00]
Les Danaïdes (1784) [9:12]
Concertino 1T [5:42]
Concertino 2T [3:50)
Concertino 3T [2:13]
Concertino 4T [2:10]
Divertimento primo [1:26]
Divertimento secondo [3:35]
Divertimento terzo [4:08]
Divertimento quarto [4:48]
La fuga [3:10]
Paolo Pollastri (oboe)
Quartetto Amati
rec. June 1994, Montepulciano Firenze
TACTUS TB751903 [48:16]

Salieri was a skilful and talented musician. From the historical point of view, his reputation suffers from the comparisons which are inevitably made with the other, greater composers who lived in Vienna at the same time. Yet to his contemporaries he was a master and arguably the leading musician of the day. He composed his first opera at the age of eighteen, and his gifts were recognised six years later, when he was appointed a court composer and conductor of Italian opera in Vienna; at thirty-eight he had risen to the position of Court Kapellmeister. He often worked with Lorenzo Da Ponte as his librettist, and his fame was international. Following the example of his lifelong friend Gluck, he became an important figure in Paris from around 1784, producing heroic operas to satisfy French taste and scoring his greatest triumph with the five-act Tarare (1787).

There is no question that Salieri’s importance lies in opera rather than in instrumental music, and to some extent this well played instrumental compilation supports this view. Only one of the pieces is in any way substantial in being more than five minutes in duration, and that - Les Danaïdes – is an operatic transcription. Whether it is Salieri’s own transcription is unclear from the booklet notes. No matter — it remains the best music on offer here, and the intense commitment of the playing of the Amati Quartet makes a quasi-orchestral impression, in the faster sections particularly.

The other items sound best in the various Concertino pieces when the excellent oboist Paolo Pollastri joins the ensemble. The first of these performances is beautifully phrased and balanced.

The music is very well organised in terms of phrasing and instrumental technique, but none of it is the least bit memorable. The experience of listening to the entire 48 minutes of the disc is that the effect of the whole is less than the sum of the parts. If this music was intended as courtly background by the Imperial Kapellmeister, it certainly achieves its aim of not engaging the listener’s attention. The recording from 1994 is clear enough but rather dry.

Terry Barfoot