Orpheus Chamber Orchestra: 3 Classic Albums Reissues = MOZART: Clarinet Concerto; Horn Concertos 1-4; Oboe Concerto; Bassoon Concerto; Flute Concerto No. 1; Flute and Harp Concerto; Andante for Flute – Charles Neidich, basset clarinet/ David Jolly, horn/ William Purvis, horn/ Randall Wolfgang, oboe/ Frank Morelli, bassoon/ Susan Palma, flute/ Nancy Allen, harp/ Orpheus Chamber Orch. – DGG 479 3082 (3 CDs), 55:25, 68:41, 57:55 [Distr. by Universal] ****1/2:
It is really hard to believe that the 2012-13 season marked the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in 1972 by cellist Julian Fifer and friends. The legacy of this conductorless orchestra—which has been criticized in that regard, and in fact has given in to several artists in a few instances—is surely one of unmitigated quality and excellence. I have been listening to them for so many years now that they seem an intractable staple on the music scene that will be difficult to eradicate, not that one wishes to do so! The technical wizardry is legendary, and for the most part their performances, so well-considered and talked over, offer endless enjoyment through their vast recorded legacy. There are currently 136 albums available on Archiv Music, many of these being compilations and selections, and not all offered through DGG. But much of their catalog is out there right now, and if newcomers to the classical scene are not familiar with them, it is high time that they become so.
Orpheus received some of the best recording efforts DGG ever captured, with full bass and striking clarity, so there are no issues there. And though they have commissioned many composers over the years, the first impressions were made with two classical period giants, Mozart and Haydn. Here we are offered a package set of three of the most famous recordings in their audio repertory, the Wind Concertos. Each of the three issues have the original cover art in a 2-flap slim line cardboard case enclosed in a cardboard box cover, quite economical. The performances, at least most of them, are almost recorded standards. Certainly there has been no finer reading of the Clarinet Concerto than that of Charles Neidich’s rich basset clarinet, while the dual sharing of the Horn Concertos have made William Purvis and David Jolley household classical names. Frank Morelli handles the Bassoon Concerto very well even if it doesn’t erase the ghosts of Jack Brymer with Beecham, and Susan Palma’s Flute Concerto is excellent. My only letdown is with the Flute and Harp Concerto, not a major breakdown in recommendation by any means, but there are others on the market with more mystery and subtlety, and one of the few times when I wonder the ensemble would have benefited from the presence of a Karl Bohm, just as an example.
This is a classic set that deserves to be heard by anyone loving Mozart, by one of the finest chamber ensembles in the world.