Forgotten Vienna

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

I reviewed the concert version of this CD in March (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 they 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. Continue reading

Forgotten Vienna 2: Amadè Players

Forgotten Vienna 2: Amadè Players
St John’s, Smith Square. 1 July 2015

Carl Ordonez Sinfonia in C; CPE Bach Cello Concerto in g; Georg Mathias Monn Cello Concerto in G Minor; Alessandro Rolla Violin Concerto in G BI 520
Poppy Walshaw, cello, George Clifford, violin, Nicholas Newland, director.

WP_20150429_19_09_23_ProThe Amadé Players returned to St John’s, Smith Square for the second in their Forgotten Vienna series. The title is a bit misleading – it is not Vienna that has been forgotten, but the wealth of composers from central and eastern European lands that flocked there in the 18th century. On this occasion the composers represent Moravia, Germany, Vienna itself, and Italy.

As with their last concert, names were an issue – the first composer (from Moravia), was listed as Carl Ordonez, but is also known as Karl von Ordoñez, Carlo or Carl d’Ordonetz, Ordonnetz, d’Ordóñez, d’Ordonez and Ordoniz. Such was social life in 18th century Vienna that his ranking in the lower nobility prevented him from working as a musician, instead having a career in the civil service. His rather conservative Sinfonia in C (Brown C1), with its delightfully delicate opening Adagio, demonstrated a tentative move from the Baroque to the Classical era. There followed the first of two cello concertos, played by Poppy Walshaw. The conductor, Nicholas Newland, explained that the addition of a second concerto was to replace the originally advertised Waňhal’s Concerto for 2 Bassoons, omitted because of the lack of the requisite number of bassoons.

The first cello concerto to be played was the more advanced in style of the two. CPE Bach’s Concerto in a opening in typical Empfindsamer Stil with an orchestral unison, immediately challenged by contrary-motion scales and a yearning melody for the solo cello followed by a motif built on rapidly repeated notes – a typical CPE Bach mix of colours and textures.  The first movement ended with the first of Poppy Walshaw’s excellent cadenzas, all kept well within the bounds and style of the piece. In the slow movement, the sound of the solo cello was allowed to grow delicately out of the orchestral texture. The skittish final movement saw the cello finally break free from its former collaborative role with a virtuoso series of flourishes.

The second cello concerto, after the interval, was the little known Concerto in g by Georg Matthias Monn (aka. Johann Georg Mann). In the pre-classical Galant style, his slightly formulaic compositional style was balanced by some very tricky passages for the solo cellist, with wide-spaced melodic lines and leaps using the whole gamut of the cello. Poppy Walshaw dealt with all these challenges with apparent ease, relishing the technical complexities and flourishes. Her playing in both these concertos (a big ask for any soloist) demonstrated a natural and sensitive understanding of the music, and the importance of working with the orchestra, rather than challenging it. The stifling heat of the hottest July day since records began no doubt added to the intonation woes of the violins, but a tuning pause after the first movement might have helped.

PictureThe evening ended with the Violin Concerto in G (B1:520) by Allessandro Rolla, an Italian composer better known today as the teacher or Paganini than for his own compositions. Clearly in a later genre that the other works on the programme, this was very obviously a work written by a violin virtuoso to demonstrate his own skills. In contrast to the earlier composers, the solo moments were accompanied by the full orchestra, rather than a Baroque-style continuo group. As with Poppy Walshaw earlier, George Clifford produced a superb extended cadenza towards the end of the first movement, building on the advanced techniques already demonstrated. Switching between arco and pizzicato (and on one occasion, both at the same time) and taking the melodic line well towards the top of the violin fingerboard, Rolla would have approved.

Forgotten Vienna: Amadè Players – St John’s, Smith Square

Forgotten Vienna: Amadè Players.
St John’s, Smith Square, 31 March 2015
Carl Ditters Concerto for Two Violins in C, Anon (Not-Haydn) Concerto for Horn in D, Johann Baptist Waṅhal  Symphony in aRequiem in E flat.
Dominika Fehér & George Clifford, violins, Ursula Paludan Monberg, natural horn, Amadè Players, Nicholas Newland, director, Choir of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.

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 for the concert by the Amadè Players (St John’s Smith Square, 31 March 2015).  Both were known to have to have played in a string quartet with Haydn and Mozart, so were clearly a key part of Viennese musical life.  ‘AKA’ was a bit of a sub-plot of the impressively detailed programme notes – Ditters is usually referred to as ‘Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf’ (his post 1773 ennoblement name), while Waṅhal was also known as Vanhal, Vaňhal, Vanhall, Wanhall, Wannhall or Van Hall.

An extension of the post-doctoral research interests of the Amadè Players’ director, Nicholas Newland, the programme featured the British premières of Ditters’ Ccncerto for two violins (c1762) and 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. A rather better-known piece came with the Horn Concerto in D, formally listed as being by Haydn, but now thought to be by one of a pair of Bohemian composers.

Dominika FehérAppropriately, given the programme’s focus, the opening double violin concerto featured an excellent young Hungarian violinist Dominika Fehér (right).  She was joined by the equally impressive George Clifford, concertmaster of the Amadè Players. During the 1760s, Ditters was listed as violin soloist more than any other player in Vienna, and it is assumed that this work was written for him to perform, perhaps with his brother. The original manuscript includes his written cadenzas. It is an attractive work, with idiomatic violin writing, even if some of the figuration and harmonic movement is slightly predictable. Both players complimented each other well, notably in the central slow movement where they moved in parallel.

The not-Haydn Horn Concerto was given an extraordinary performance by the Danish Ursula Paludan Monberg_cropUrsula Paludan Monberg (left). I have raved about her playing in Early Music Review, notably after an exquisite performance of the notorious Quoniam tu solis from Bach’s B minor Mass in Bach’s own Leipzig Thomaskirche (with the English Concert, in 2012)  and last year’s performance of Handel’s Theodora at the Barbican. Despite having to hobble on stage on crutches with a broken foot, she was on top form playing the notoriously tricky natural horn. I was particularly impressed with her control of tone, using her hand in the horn’s bell – a technique that had only just been introduced at the time of this piece.  She played her own cadenzas, giving herself a monumental task, not least in the range of the notes, including what I think must be the lowest note I have ever heard played on a natural form.

After the interval, the orchestra expanded to include oboes and horns for the Waṅhal Symphony in a. Dr Charles Burney wrote that Waṅhal’s “symphonies had afforded me such uncommon pleasure, that I should not hesitate to rank them among the most complete and perfect compositions for many instruments, which the art of music can boast”. I am not sure if I would be quite so complimentary, but this example was certainly an impressive work. Despite the presence of four horns, they were only really used to fill out chords until a couple of flourishes towards the end of the bustling final movement.

The concert finished 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 coherent 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. As it happens, my main exposure to Waṅhal’s music has been during my visits to the Varaždin Baroque Evenings festivals – I have been a member of the festival jury, and have given several organ recitals there. Varaždin’s imposing Stari Grad fortress contains a portrait of Waṅhal, and the baroque Erdödy Palace is now the Varaždin School of Music.

A CD with the same title, Forgotten Vienna, will be released later this year on the Resonus Classics label.

[https://andrewbensonwilson.org/2015/04/05/forgotten-vienna-amade-players-st-johns-smith-square/]