Jan Dismas ZELENKA (1679-1745)
Trio Sonatas
Sonata No.1 in F major for two oboes, bassoon and bass continuo [17:43]
Sonata No.2 in G minor for two oboes, bassoon and bass continuo [20:55]
Sonata No.3 in B flat major for violin, oboe and bassoon, and bass continuo [16:26]
Sonata No.4 in G minor for violin, oboe and bassoon, and bass continuo [22:47]
Sonata No.5 in G minor for two oboes, bassoon and bass continuo [17:18]
Sonata No.6 in C minor for two oboes, bassoon and bass continuo [15:33]
Paul Dombrecht, Marcel Ponseele and Ku Ebbinge (oboes): Danny Bond (bassoon):
Chiara Banchini (violin): Richte van der Meer (cello): Robert Kohnen (harpsichord)
rec. 1982/88, Protestant Church (the Chapel Royal), Brussels
GLOSSA GCDC80014 [55:10 + 53:25]

Zelenka has long been on the audio-visual tourist trail for visitors to Prague. His popularity on disc, and as a representative of Bohemian music-making, seems indelible, and it’s an unusual record shop that doesn’t fly the Zelenka flag in its store windows. But sometimes it’s good to take stock of the composer’s recorded legacy and listen again to performances that set a standard that, to some minds, was usurped or even superseded by others. The star soloist here is Paul Dombrecht and these are his simply splendid 1982-88 recordings of the Trio Sonatas ZWV181 now making a reappearance on Glossa. I believe there was a prior reissue on Accent, back in 1999 but that disc is long out of print.

It was Heinz Holliger’s second recording on ECM, which followed his earlier 1972 set, that seemed to corner the market in this repertoire but that would be to underestimate the nuance, attention to detail, tonal beauty and ensemble vitality cultivated by this group. Marcel Ponseele and Ku Ebbinge prove distinguished oboists to share burdens of solo responsibility in the two-oboe sonatas. Bassoonist Danny Bond is hugely personable and dextrous, and the addition of violinist Chiara Banchini, cellist Richte van der Meer and harpsichordist Robert Kohnen ensures aerated textures.

This historically informed recording had a long genesis, completed over six years after the first notes were set down. It’s almost impossible however to detect any changes in acoustic and fortunately all the sonatas were recorded in the Protestant Church in Brussels in the Chapel Royal.

This gatefold twofer holds much to enjoy. Those Zelenka clashes are evoked in the finale of the first sonata, whilst his talent for elegantly yearning melodic lines can best be appreciated in the Andante opening of the Sonata in G minor – note how beautifully balanced the voicings are. The mobile soloistic writing allows one to distinguish the particular characteristics of the oboe players whilst Bond’s virtuosic burbling enlivens the rumbling quotient engraved in the second movement Allegro of No.3. These stylish, well textured, buoyant readings bring the music triumphantly to life through resilient rhythmic crispness. But they don’t neglect the aria-like beauty of the slow movement of No.4 or the more stentorian qualities of the opening of the three-movement No.5. There’s nothing fussy here or didactic. As a sampler try the elegance of the Allegro finale of No.6 or the winding bassoon lines – but precise articulation - in the central movement of the same sonata.

The two discs are housed in an elegant gatefold, with good notes. Still a winner.

Jonathan Woolf

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