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Christian WESTERHOFF (1763-1806)
Viola Concerto No.1 in G major [19:15]
Viola Concerto No.3 in C major [19:11]
Flute Concerto in D major, Op.6 or 11 (c.1798) [23:56]
Barbara Buntrock (viola)
Gaby Pas-Van Riet (flute)
Osnabrück Symphony Orchestra/Andreas Hotz
rec. 2014, Osnabrückhalle
CPO 777 844-2 [62:30]

Despite the paucity of published editions of his work Christian Westerhoff enjoyed a select cachet during his lifetime and CPO is slowly making amends for the lack of recorded examples of his music. His Symphony and Clarinet Concerto can be heard on 777 598-2 (see review) and now - though recorded back in April 2014 - we have two viola concertos and one for flute.

The dating of Westerhoff’s works is sketchy. Indeed, biographical material is thin on the ground, too, though it’s known that he was a violist and that he was paid handsomely for his compositions. It’s assumed he performed his own works for viola. Formally speaking the works are modestly but cannily orchestrated. Technically they espouse a formal ground plan with a few personalised devices. The confident parceling out of themes in the G major concerto is both efficient and attractive, the reminiscences of earlier material equally so. He invariably wrote warmly and sympathetically in slow movements, allowing the solo instrument poetic room, but the most interesting moment in this concerto comes in its finale where the composer emphasises the use of flageolet tone, which he then contrasts with fast passagework supported by wind descant. The tune and marshalling of material is especially well developed here.

The companion concerto in C major is a buoyant, lyrical and melodically lively work. As ever with this composer it’s structurally refined – no baggy or loose writing – and with the lovely slow movement cantilena and the jaunty variations in the finale, it’s an eminently recommendable work. The Flute Concerto shares with its string confreres the use of a pair of flutes and horns. But it makes a more dramatic and immediate impression. There’s just a touch more flair about it, and the cadenzas are, though brief, very communicative. The refulgent arioso of the slow movement is, if anything, superior to those for his own instrument and the aerial and yet genial finale is both pleasing and nonchalant. It sounds as if Westerhoff was particularly inspired by writing for the flute which he seems to have done around 1798.

Bert Hagels’ notes have been well translated into English by Susan Marie Praeder, though you will encounter a bit of second tutti/recapitulation/tonic key explication on a track by track basis.

Westerhoff clearly knew the value of his own music. If musical history has not been especially kind to him – it’s largely ignored him - one can be consoled via expert recordings such as this. Both soloists are splendid and Andreas Hotz directs his modern instrument performers with great sympathy in a well-judged acoustic. Let’s hope we don’t need to wait too long before CPO releases another tranche of recordings by him. Sadly, his composition in honour of the Cowpox Inoculation is no longer extant. Now what would that have sounded like?

Jonathan Woolf



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