“Concertante: Virtuoso Wind Concertos” = AGOSTINO BELLOLI: Concerto for clarinet, horn, and orchestra; FRANZ DANZI: Concertino for clarinet, bassoon, and orchestra in B-flat Major, Op. 47; IGNAZ LACHNER: Concertino for horn, bassoon, and orchestra, Op. 43; LOUIS-EMMANUEL JADIN: Symphonie Concertante for clarinet, horn, bassoon, and orchestra – Niels Anders Vedsten Larsen, bassoon/ Egīls Šēfers, clarinet/ David M. A. P. Palmquist, horn/ Sinfonietta Riga/ Claus Efland – Challenge Classics CC72621 [Distr. by Allegro], 69:13 (1/14/14) ****:
Of the four composers represented on this disc, the name of Franz Danzi should certainly ring a bell. A prolific German composer who worked in a number of genres, today Danzi is best remembered for his wind quintets, which served as models for all subsequent essays in the medium. Interestingly, though he’s most associated with wind instruments, his instrument was the cello, on which he was a virtuoso performer. His familiarity with winds and with concertante writing come together in the charming Concertino for clarinet and bassoon. True to its name, it’s a short work, running around fifteen minutes, but it manages in short space to put the soloists very effectively through their paces. As with all the works on this disc, it represents a comfy, rather homey Biedermeier sensibility, bringing the old-fashioned sinfonia concertante to the early fringes of the Romantic era.
Despite his dates (1807-1895), German composer Franz Lachner can be numbered among early Romantics, a friend of Schubert and heavily influenced by his music. There’s a Classical bearing to Lachner’s music-making, a sturdy, big-boned drama that should net some of his eight symphonies an occasional outing, but don’t hold your breath waiting for the chance to hear them. Anyway, like Danzi, Lachner is probably best known, if at all, for his chamber music with winds. Given Lachner’s affinity for Schubert (and Beethoven), his Concertino for horn and bassoon is the feistiest music on the disc. The composer employs a big orchestra with lots of brass and timpani flourishes, though the orchestra recedes to provide a comfortable cushion for the solo playing. The last movement is a jaunty Tempo di Polacca that’s bound to leave a smile on your face. For me, Lachner’s work has by far the most distinctive profile, and it’s the piece I’ll return to most often.
Louis-Emmanuel Jadin (1768-1853) is the older brother of the somewhat better known Hyacinthe Jadin, whose piano music is celebrated for its anticipation of Romanticism. Louis-Emmanuel outlived his tragically short-lived brother by more than fifty years, producing a slew of operas (none of which, I’m pretty confident, you’ll ever hear). In fact, there’s a kind of operatic bearing to Louis-Emmanuel’s Symphonie Concertante, with a confident, almost strutting Allegro opening that reminds me a bit of Rossini. The brief second movement Adagio could easily be stand in for an opera scena—just substitute a soprano, tenor, and baritone for the wind soloists. The finale is a frolicsome rondo with showy flourishes for the solo instruments, though the horn has a more dramatic turn at the midpoint of the movement.
Italian composer Agostino Belloli (1778-1839) is an unknown quantity, at least to me, and it’s hard to get any appreciation of his work since the only other piece by him on disc is a horn concerto. Belloli’s Concerto for clarinet and horn is both lyrical and dramatic, quasi-operatic in the same vein as Jadin’s work. The variations finale gives the soloists their chance to shine individually and collectively: the clarinet announces the theme, the horn gets dibs on the first variation, the clarinet returns with a mournful little Minore aria, then horn and then clarinet again, before the two are reunited for a final burst of virtuoso fireworks.
It’s all good, clean musical fun that should appeal to wind players and fanciers of the early Romantic era. The disc should appeal to a wider audience as well, given that the music is stylish and stylishly rendered by the performers. The playing by the wind soloists is solidly virtuosic throughout, as it has to be given the demands made on them, and Sinfonietta Riga is a fine little band that accompanies with panache and declaims with vigor in those bright tutti passages. Very good sound as well from the Reformation Church in Riga.