WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

The Mystery Of Sign. Mouthon - 10 Concerti A 5 / Letzbor

Mouthon,Charles
Release Date: 05/11/2010 
Label:  Challenge   Catalog #: 72336   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Charles Mouton
Performer:  Gunar Letzbor
Conductor:  Gunar Letzbor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ars Antiqua Austria
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
On sale! $17.98
CD:  $15.99
In Stock



Notes and Editorial Reviews



MOUTON Concerti à 5 Gunar Letzbor, cond; Ars Antiqua Austria CHALLENGE CC72336 (59:40)


Here’s a bit of a mystery. According to Grove , Charles Mouton (1626–after 1699) was a pupil of the celebrated lutenist Denis Gaultier. He was employed at some point in his youth by the court at Savoy in Turin, but settled in Paris in 1678. There he was highly regarded as both a virtuoso and teacher, and published four lute tablature books, of which two are lost. Read more No other music of his is known to exist—or at least, was believed to, until a manuscript of 10 concerti grossi in five parts turned up in recent years in the archive of the Kremsmünster Abbey of Upper Austria, inscribed Concerto à 5. Dell Sign. Mouthon.


There are major problems with this. First is the fact that music from France had little penetration in Austria at the time, as artistic imports might be seen as endorsing an old enemy. Second is the concerti grossi themselves, expertly composed in the style of Corelli, though with a bold chromatic element at times that sounds particularly modern—certainly nothing that stylistically resembles Mouton’s known works. Third, we have no indication of aspirations on his part as an orchestral composer. This leaves us with an orchestral work in the manner of Corelli’s school, supposedly written by a French lutenist whose surviving compositions show no hint of either boldness or an Italianate influence; in a manuscript that somehow made its way at the time from Paris to an abbey in Upper Austria. But if this music isn’t by Charles Mouton, then who is “Mouthon,” where did he come from, and why was he listed as the composer?


Matters are complicated on this release by a performing style that is undeniably exhilarating, but also arbitrary and in some respects open to stylistic doubt. The technical abilities of Ars Antiqua Austria are never in question. Favoring a tight ambience (unlike numerous other Baroque performance groups), close miking, and lack of vibrato means nothing gets swept under the audio rug. The ensemble’s sometimes breathless tempos as a result leave no doubt about their razor-sharp intonation, or expertise in unison playing, especially in spectacular spiccato passages. They employ a range of tempos to fill out the almost uniform adagio and allegro indications of these concertos, but tend to move through slow movements made up of nothing more than a series of changing chords very swiftly, without taking into account that an improvised solo in the manner of stilo recitativo might well have been deployed at that point. Fast movements vary from allegro to a caffeinated presto (192 bpm), as in the Concerto VI—where the combination of tempo, sharp attacks, chromatic changes of harmony, and sudden promotion of the organ continuo to the melody instrument while the violins play accompaniment, certainly sounds exciting but anachronistic, and somewhat meretricious. Possibly arranged for effect, too: Did Mouton actually write a quick duet of exchanges between the massed strings and the continuo?


It will make for a great sound bite on the radio, at least—and on the group’s Web site, where they also feature that work—especially when performed with the fire these musicians evince. In any case, whoever wrote these concerti grossi, they are vibrant, and musically distinctive. Recommended, with reservations noted.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal


The ten Concerti à 5 recorded by Ars Antiqua Austria are from a manuscript which forms part of the archive of Kremsmünster Abbey (Upper Austria). It is entitled 'Concerto à 5. Dell Sign. Mouthon'. The concertos are written in the form of Italian ensemble music, and scored for two violins, two violas and bass. The only composer with the name of Mouton - without a "h" in it - is the French lutenist who lived from 1626 to around 1699. But it is very doubtful whether he is the composer of these concertos.
 
In his programme notes Gunar Letzbor writes: "We invite you to form an opinion whether this work is part of the collection of the lutenist of the 17th century Charles Mouton, whether it concerns another up to now unknown composer with the name Mouthon or whether the writing up is simply faulty."
 
I am absolutely sure that this music was not composed by the French lutenist Charles Mouton. First of all, there is no indication whatsoever that he had ever written anything other than lute music. Secondly, although he worked for a while in Turin in the 1670s, the style of the concertos is that of the end of the 17th century, and at that time Italian music was only just starting to have some influence on French composers. When they began to accommodate Italian influences they always mixed in French stylistic elements. There is nothing French in these concertos.
 
In addition, the virtuosity of in particular the upper parts is not something one associates with French composers. Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764) was a violin virtuoso but these concertos are certainly not from his pen. The argument that the scoring, with two viola parts, was "customary only in France and in Austria", as Gunar Letzbor writes in the booklet, doesn't hold water. Italian composers of the late 17th century, for instance Giovanni Legrenzi (1626-1690), also wrote for five-part strings. And even Vivaldi's contemporary Tomaso Albinoni composed instrumental music with two viola parts, for instance in his op. 2, which was printed in 1700.
 
Nowhere on this disc did I hear anything that reminded me of music I already knew. I can't think of any composer that I know who could have written these concertos. Therefore my guess is that this Mouthon is really someone we haven’t previously encountered. And it would be very worthwhile to look for more of him.
 
That indicates that I assess these concertos positively. That’s an understatement. I have greatly enjoyed this disc. These concertos are important discoveries, and are a very worthwhile addition to the catalogue of baroque instrumental music. It is a matter of good fortune that they are performed for the first time by such an outstanding ensemble as Ars Antiqua Austria.
 
The playing is nothing less than brilliant, both technically and in regard to interpretation. There is not a dull moment here. The fast movements are sparkling and often exciting, the slow movements full of pathos and expression. Most movements are pretty short - some take only 10 or 20 seconds - and there are hardly any pauses. That is definitely right as these concertos give the impression of being constructed as a unity with short contrasting sections rather than full-blown movements.
 
In short, this is a disc to treasure. If you think you know your baroque music, look for this disc and you will hear something you haven't heard before.
 
-- Johan van Veen, MusicWeb International
Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Concerto no 1 in B flat major by Charles Mouton
Performer:  Gunar Letzbor (Violin)
Conductor:  Gunar Letzbor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ars Antiqua Austria
Period: Baroque 
2. Concerto no 2 in F major by Charles Mouton
Performer:  Gunar Letzbor (Violin)
Conductor:  Gunar Letzbor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ars Antiqua Austria
Period: Baroque 
3. Concerto no 3 in D major by Charles Mouton
Performer:  Gunar Letzbor (Violin)
Conductor:  Gunar Letzbor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ars Antiqua Austria
Period: Baroque 
4. Concerto no 4 in G major by Charles Mouton
Performer:  Gunar Letzbor (Violin)
Conductor:  Gunar Letzbor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ars Antiqua Austria
Period: Baroque 
5. Concerto no 5 in C major by Charles Mouton
Performer:  Gunar Letzbor (Violin)
Conductor:  Gunar Letzbor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ars Antiqua Austria
Period: Baroque 
6. Concerto no 6 in A minor by Charles Mouton
Performer:  Gunar Letzbor (Violin)
Conductor:  Gunar Letzbor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ars Antiqua Austria
Period: Baroque 
7. Concerto no 7 in D minor by Charles Mouton
Performer:  Gunar Letzbor (Violin)
Conductor:  Gunar Letzbor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ars Antiqua Austria
Period: Baroque 
8. Concerto no 8 in A major by Charles Mouton
Performer:  Gunar Letzbor (Violin)
Conductor:  Gunar Letzbor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ars Antiqua Austria
Period: Baroque 
9. Concerto no 9 in B minor by Charles Mouton
Performer:  Gunar Letzbor (Violin)
Conductor:  Gunar Letzbor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ars Antiqua Austria
Period: Baroque 
10. Concerto no 10 in E minor by Charles Mouton
Performer:  Gunar Letzbor (Violin)
Conductor:  Gunar Letzbor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ars Antiqua Austria
Period: Baroque 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title
Review This Title Share on Facebook