Franz Anton HOFFMEISTER (1754-1812)
Viola Concerto in D major (1780s) [21:20]
Carl STAMITZ (1745-1801)
Viola Concerto No.1 in D major (c.1774) [23:05] Michael HAYDN (1737-1806)
Concerto for Organ, Viola and Strings (c.1761) [30:44]
Andra Dārziņa (viola)
Jürgen Essl (organ)
rec. November 2014, Konzertsaal der Musikhochschule Stuutgart CPO 777 986-2 [75:22]
Coupling the Hoffmeister and Stamitz concertos in this way is quite a common practice as they are fodder viola concertos of the 1770s and 1780s. That said, students tend to dislike them or resent playing them, hungry for a more appetizing and modern set of concertos, and it’s only when record companies come a-calling that they dig out their old scores and get woodshedding.
Urban Camerata is violist Andra Dārziņa’s own band, which she formed in 2013, and is made up of colleagues and students at Stuttgart University of Music and the Performing Arts and draws its members worldwide. It lines up 3-3-4-3-1.
The Hoffmeister is nicely pointed, adept at accelerandi, and less smooth than Hariolf Schlichtig and the Munich Chamber Orchestra on Tudor 7087 whose rather warmer performance is nevertheless attractive on its own terms – faster in the outer movements, predictably slower in the central Adagio. Dārziņa is the more expressively graphic interpreter. She also plays Robert Levin’s second movement cadenza and the Franz Beyer-Levin in the finale, whilst Schlichtig plays all-Beyer. Stamitz’s Concerto is a more colourful and orchestrally lively work and both teams are satisfying here. I ought to point out that I’ve not auditioned Naxos 8.572182 where Victoria Chiang plays both concerti adding another by Hoffmeister. Fortunately, this CPO recording is well balanced and attractive; solos and tuttis are well calibrated, and the bass line is sufficiently audible. The Tudor performance of the slow movement flows rather more quickly than this CPO, but this merely points to the fact that the work can take a variety of approaches and still sound convincing. The Beyer cadenzas are pretty well entrenched for this work and both teams play them, though the one that ends the Allegro invariably sounds too long.
Tudor offers the burly Concerto of Carl Zelter as the final work whereas CPO gives us the intriguing Michael Haydn Concerto for Organ, Viola and Strings. This is where CPO scores as this work is a delight, with a profuse lyricism and some weird and wonderful organ registrations here – church one moment, fairground the next – from Jürgen Essl, who sounds as if he’s enjoying, and definitely not enduring, every moment. The opening movement is stately and elegant and rather like the Stamitz seems to prefigure some elements of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante K364. This thematically rich and Galant work is splendidly performed – though I wouldn’t suggest ditching the classic Stephen Shingles-Simon Preston-ASMIF version with Neville Marriner.