As a glance at the titles for this release indicates, this is pretty much an album of reconstructions. In his learned and usefully comprehensive booklet notes, Geoffrey Burgess describes how Bach’s concertos for harpsichord can be shown to have had other intended solo instruments, the oboe in particular, in mind. Bach wrote more solos for the oboe into his cantatas than for any other instrument, and so the lack of concertante works for the instrument argues that several may have been lost or have only survived in other guises.
Youngest son of J.S. Bach, Johann Christian Bach rose to prominence in England during the early Classical period much the same as his father dominated the German Baroque. His writing was influenced by his father, of course, but also by the fashions being explored by Haydn. J.C. Bach also served as a bridge to Mozart, whose work and early writings were also influenced by the junior Bach. A total of 15, three-movement symphonies were published under Opp. 6, 9, and 18.
This is a very nice recording of bassoon concertos by the Mozart of Paris, Francois Devienne. Eckart Huebner is a masterful player with a nice sound, good interpretation, great intonation, and brings out the musicality which occasionally lacks or is absent in Devienne recordings. His notes are well written and provide background with thoughts and conjecture concerning each of the concertos and the mysterious 2nd bassoon concerto of Mozart which has been attributed to Devienne.
The world was hardly clamoring for another recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons violin concertos, but the Australian Chamber Orchestra has evolved into one of the world's top concert attractions, and it's natural that their fans would want to hear them in this ubiquitous work. Violin soloist Richard Tognetti plays a 1743 Guarneri instrument with a powerfully flashy tone, and he gets a large variety of sounds from it. These are complemented by the inclusion in the booklet of the four sonnets included by Vivaldi in the score (and possibly written by the composer himself). This is always desirable, for the Four Seasons are programmatic in a way that's hard to pick up from the music alone, and the inclusion of the texts is remarkably rare…
Recordings of Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, are abundant, and even the pairing with the rarer Robert Schumann Violin Concerto, WoO 23, of 1853 are not as infrequent as they used to be. The thorny Schumann concerto has undergone a reevaluation upward, and plenty of players now concur with the judgment of Yehudi Menuhin: "This concerto is the historically missing link of the violin literature; it is the bridge between the Beethoven and the Brahms concertos, though leaning more towards Brahms." Violinist Carolin Widmann who (like the ECM label on which the album appears) has focused mostly on contemporary music, takes up the challenge of providing something new here, and she meets it. The central fact of the recording is that Widmann conducts the Chamber Orchestra of Europe from the violin. Others have done this before, but few have pursued the implications of the technique as far as Widmann has: the performances are unusually light and transparent, and they are perhaps thus in accord with the sounds an orchestra of the middle 19th century might have produced. Sample the unusually lively, sprightly reading of the Mendelssohn concerto's finale.