Forgotten Vienna

Forgotten Vienna
Amadè Players, Choir of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge;
George Clifford & Dominika Fehér (violins);
Nicholas Newland (director)
Resonus RES10157. 71’43

I reviewed the March concert version of this CD (see here) and will repeat some of what I wrote then. Eighteenth century Vienna attracted many émigré musicians from Hungary, the Czech lands of Moravia, Silesia and Bohemia, and other smaller city states within the Hapsburg Empire.  Alongside composers such as Mozart and Haydn, they were important contributors to the development of the classical style during the mid to late 18th century. They included the composers Ditters and Waṅhal, the focus of this CD.  Both were known to have to have played in a string quartet alongside Haydn and Mozart, so were clearly a key part of Viennese musical life.  ‘AKA’ was a bit of a sub-plot of the detailed programme notes – Ditters is usually referred to in his ennobled form of ‘Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf’, while Waṅhal was also known as Vanhal, Vaňhal, Vanhall, Wanhall, Wannhall or Van Hall.

The concert and this CD are an extension of the post-doctoral research interests of the Amadè Players’ director, Nicholas Newland. The March concert saw the British premières of Ditters’ Ccncerto for two violins (c1762), Waṅhal’s Symphony in A minor (c1769) as well as the world première of the latter’s Requiem Mass in E flat, the second and smaller of the two Requiems he wrote in memory of his parents. The CD adds to these works, Waṅhal’s Violin Concerto in B flat and the little four-movement Sinfonia in C by the obscure composer Karl Ordonez, Viennese born of Moravian extraction.

It has to be said that the music is not of the highest quality, although the young players of The Amadè Players interpret it with considerable style and gusto. The opening Ditters’ Concerto for two violins  bubbles along, the interplay between violinists Dominika Fehér and George Clifford being a delight to listen to. In concert, Dominika Fehér played first violin but (based on my own probably rather shaky stylistic interpretation) I think the roles might have been reversed for the recording. George Clifford is certainly the soloist in the Waṅhal Violin Concerto – I gather the cadenzas are Clifford’s own, and are impressively virtuosic.

Waṅhal’s Symphony in A minor has been reconstructed for this recording to what seems to have been its original scoring with four horn parts and the usually omitted third movement Minuet pair. The CD concludes with Waṅhal’s E flat Requiem Mass, a relatively short work with an attractively lyrical Lux Aeterna. The choir of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge made an impressively cDSCF6114oherent sound. It is possible that this was written during (or for) one of Waṅhal’s periodic visits to the Croatian city of Varaždin, one of the seats of the Counts Erdödy and, between 1756 and the disastrous fire of 1776, the capital of Hapsburg Croatia. Varaždin’s imposing Stari Grad fortress (an Erdödy seat, pictured left) contains a portrait of Waṅhal, and the baroque Erdödy Palace is now the local School of Music.

This is fascinating insight into the repertoire, and composers, that are usually overlooked in favour of their more illustrious musical cousins. What the music might lack in intellectual and emotional depth is more than made up for by its sheer delight. And the programme notes are well worth a read.

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