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Jet Set! Classical Glitterati
Carl Friedrich ZELTER (1758-1832)
Viola Concerto in E flat major [23:33]
Carl Friedrich ABEL (1723-1787)
Symphony in C major op. 14 no. 1 (WK 25) [8:31]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
“Deh vieni, non tardar” from Le Nozze di Figaro [3:18]
Johann Friedrich REICHARDT (1752-1814)
Symphony in G major [9:44]
Stephen STORACE (1762-1796)
“Domestic peace” from The Siege of Belgrade (orch. Simon Murphy) [5:06]
Giovanni PAISIELLO (1740-1816)
“Nel cor pił non mi sento” from La Molinara [1:48]
Carl Friedrich ABEL
Symphony in E flat major op. 14 no. 2 (WK 26) [14:04]
Gudrun Sidonie Otto (soprano)
The New Dutch Academy/Simon Murphy (viola)
rec. 2017, Gothic Hall of the Council of State, The Hague, The Netherlands
Abel, Reichardt, Storace – premiere recordings
PENTATONE PTC5186787 SACD [66:09]

The premise for the title of this recording is that these composers were either among the “glitterati” of the second half of the eighteenth century, or associated with that circle. Mozart clearly is one of the former, and possibly Paisiello as well, but the others are harder to categorise. Abel and Reichardt were much more prominent in those times than they are now; the former has some presence in the catalogue, the latter almost none. Reichardt was a political radical, friend of Goethe, Schiller and Kant, as well as Kapellmeister in Potsdam for Frederick the Great, so he definitely was associated with the highflyers of the time. Similarly Abel, whilst in London, mixed with JC Bach, Gainsborough and Garrick. Zelter, as head of the Berlin Singakadamie, was key in restoring JS Bach’s reputation (he was Mendelssohn’s teacher). Stephen Storace, an Englishman, was the brother and travelling companion of Nancy, who was the Susanna in the premiere of Mozart’s Figaro (obviously the reason for the inclusion of the aria here).

The concerto that opens the recordings is unfortunately the low point of the whole disc. The music is fairly ho-hum, and the recording is far too close, so we hear every sniff and inhalation from Simon Murphy, the soloist. Things markedly improve with the Abel symphony which is deliciously efferverscent, and the Reichardt which is more serious. All music of this era (that I’ve heard) is never less than pleasant, but requires a genius to elevate it to the sublime. Abel and Reichardt aren’t at that level of course, but their symphonies are certainly worth multiple listens. The two arias not in the standard repertoire are contrasting: the Storace, which opens with hints of Zadok, is nonetheless gentle and lyrical, while the Paisiello is a virtuoso showpiece.

This release is a “sequel” to a Baroque-era programme entitled Grand Tour, which my MWI colleague praised for the performances, but felt that the selection of music was rather unadventurous (Bach, Handel, Telemann, Vivaldi - review). Here, that criticism certainly doesn’t apply, and the performances are uniformly excellent. Gudrun Sidonie Otto has made a number of recordings for CPO, primarily in Baroque music, and meets the differing demands of the three arias here very well. The orchestra, using authentic instruments, plays wonderfully well with great crispness and verve. The notes, written by Simon Murphy, the founder of the orchestra, are both informative and wryly amusing.

David Barker

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