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Franz DANZI (1763-1826)
Sinfonia Concertante in E flat for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon and orchestra (arr. Eugen Bodart) [20:23]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sinfonia Concertante in E flat for oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon and orchestra, K.297b [31:19]
François DEVIENNE (1759-1803)
Sinfonia Concertante No. 2 in F for flute, oboe, horn, bassoon and orchestra [23:17]
Sinfonia Concertante in B flat for flute, clarinet and orchestra, Op. 41 [20:11]
Ignaz PLEYEL (1757-1831)
Sinfonia Concertante No. 5 in F, for flute, oboe, horn, bassoon and orchestra, B115 [22:09]
Les Vents Français (Emmanuel Pahud (flute), Paul Meyer (clarinet), François Leleux (oboe), Gilbert Audin (bassoon), Radovan Vlatkovic (horn), Gilbert Audin (bassoon))
Münchener Kammerorchester/Daniel Giglberger
rec. 2017, Bayerischen Rundfunk, Munich
WARNER CLASSICS 9029570487 [52:03 + 65:37]

In this outstanding album, Les Vents Français venture into sinfonia concertante repertoire of the classical era. There are five pieces for various wind combinations, with orchestral accompaniment from Münchener Kammerorchester.

Les Vents Français, who already released several excellent albums, are a crack ensemble of distinguished solo performers in their own right (see the reviews of Music for Wind Quintets and Winds and Piano). Unquestionably the best-known member is Emmanuel Pahud, principal flute of Berliner Philharmoniker with an illustrious solo career (see the reviews of Revolution and Around the World).

The accompanying notes say that the form of the sinfonia concertante thrived in the period around 1770 to 1830, mainly in Paris and for a time in Mannheim (with one of the finest court orchestras in Europe). Les Vents Français have recorded works by Pleyel and Devienne, composers active in Paris, Danzi, who worked in Mannheim and Munich, and an adaptation of a work thought to have been written by Mozart in Paris.

Raised in Mannheim and working at the court for a time, Franz Danzi was a German cellist, conductor and composer who wrote nine wind quintets. The manuscript of the first work contained on this album is a wind quintet originally written in 1785 for Munich Residenz orchestra. Played here is Eugen Bodart’s arrangement from 1970s of the wind quintet as sinfonia concertante for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon and orchestra. Another Danzi score on the album is Sinfonia Concertante for flute, clarinet and orchestra, a work probably written in the period 1807-1812 when he was Kapellmeister at Stuttgart.

Shrouded in mystery is Sinfonia Concertante for oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon and orchestra K.297b, a masterwork attributed to Mozart, who was influenced by the music of Mannheim. The liner notes state the score is thought to be an adaptation of a concertante work for four wind instruments and orchestra that Mozart wrote in Paris in 1778 for Concert Spirituel.

An eminent flautist, François Devienne was active in Paris. His compositional output includes twelve operas. Sinfonia Concertante No. 2 for flute, oboe, horn, bassoon and orchestra was probably introduced in 1793 at Free School of Music of the National Guard, Paris.

A pupil of Haydn and admired by Mozart, Austrian Ignaz Pleyel arrived in Paris in 1795 around the time of the foundation of the Conservatoire. Pleyel is represented here by his Sinfonia Concertante No. 5 for flute, oboe, horn, bassoon and orchestra.

Maybe it is not so surprising — given the closeness of the compositional dates of these sinfonias — how similar they are in terms of style and expressive quality. Of course, the enigmatic work attributed to Mozart is of an exceptional standard, yet the other scores are in pleasingly high quality too. There are compellingly vivacious and buoyant, frequently sparkling Allegros, and the generally calming, sometimes meditative slow movements; the finales, so irresistibly upbeat, just fizz along.

Les Vents Français are in magnificent form. They give us radiant, stylish and focused playing of impeccable musicality and elevated technical assurance, with instinctive feel for the works. One notes the subtle nuances and the delightful precision; nothing feels self-conscious. With playing of such evident relish, one never becomes satiated with wind tone. Münchener Kammerorchester ditrected by Daniel Giglberger play with an exceptionally alert style. The recording is excellent, and Denis Verroust’s booklet essay “Symphonie Concertante: Content and Form” is extremely helpful.

This vivid exploration by Les Vents Français of fascinating Sinfonia Concertante music is entirely convincing.

Michael Cookson



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