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Franz Xaver RICHTER (1709-1789)
Sinfonia No. 52 in D Major (ca 1750) [11:49]
Te Deum (1781) [22:39]
Oboe Concerto in F major (ca 1770) [11:51]
Exsultate Deo (ca 1773) [3:10]
Luise Haugk (Baroque oboe)
Czech Ensemble Baroque Orchestra and Choir/Roman Válek
rec. 2017, St Martin’s Church, Luleč, Czech Republic
SUPRAPHON SU42402 [49:29]

This is one of those albums which is almost self-recommending to those whose interest coincides with the style and era of music included. You can be fairly sure of well-crafted and thoroughly enjoyable music, lacking that final degree of inspiration that separates the large number of composers active in the period from the twin peaks of genius, Mozart and Haydn. Only the Sinfonia appears to be available in an alternative recording. However, I say “almost” self-recommending because I feel that a run time of under 50 minutes for a full-priced recording is close to unacceptable.

For those not familiar with Richter, he was one of the senior members of the Mannheim School, spending 23 years there as singer, violinist in the court orchestra and composer. His style, which employs a considerable amount of counterpoint, owes much to his teacher, Johann Joseph Fux, but Richter is of that generation whose music is a mix of the old (Baroque) and the new (Classical).

The Sinfonia has been dubbed the “trumpet sinfonia” for its use of three in concertante roles. It is a triumphant work, which surely must have been composed for a special ceremonial occasion, but history has not provided an answer for us. The Te Deum was the second Richter composed, the first being early in his career before he moved to Mannheim. It alternates parts for the chorus with arias and duets, and like the Sinfonia, makes much use of the brass. We do know that it was composed for a celebration, that being the centenary of the French administration of the city of Strasbourg, where Richter was Kapellmeister after his time in Mannheim. The Oboe Concerto is the least interesting of the works presented here, though its mostly pastoral atmosphere does provide a contrast to the celebratory mood of the others. The Exsultate Deo is the first in a cycle of four motets per la processione del Corpus Christi. It has the same brass-laden celebratory mood of the Te Deum, and packs a remarkable amount into its three minutes, but it does rather beg the question: what about the other three motets? There is no suggestion in the notes that they are lost, and unless they are unexpectedly lengthy, there seems no reason why they haven’t been included.

The Czech Ensemble Baroque Orchestra uses period instruments, but these are not harsh or overly fast performances. Indeed in the Sinfonia where I could make a comparison with the Chandos recording of the London Mozart Players, I felt this new, less smooth version suited the joyous and triumphant music better. The sound quality is very good as are the notes.

This is the third release by these artists on Supraphon of his vocal music; the others have both been well received on these pages (review ~ review). I certainly am not about to differ from the party line.

David Barker


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