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Viola Concertos - Hummel, Weber, Hoffmeister, J. Schubert / Causse


Release Date: 03/01/2005 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 942376   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz Anton HoffmeisterJohann Nepomuk HummelJoseph SchubertCarl Maria von Weber
Performer:  Gérard Caussé
Conductor:  Gérard Caussé
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Solistes de Moscou-Montpellier Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 58 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

All four of these compositions for viola and orchestra are given in revisions by modern editors—Ulrich Driiner for the Hoffmeister; Fernand Oubradous for the Hummel (which is listed not as a révision but as a reconstitution, which sounds to be a more serious sort of tinkering); Karlheinz Schultz-Hauser for the Joseph Schubert; and George Schiinemann for the Weber. The program notes do not explain why these works had to be revised or reconstituted; they don't even mention that they have been. So I cannot tell you to what extent they are authentic scores by their respective composers. But I do know three of the works from previous recordings and I have a sense that they have been spruced up, especially as regards the accompaniments Read more and, to some extent, the viola line as well. The viola in the late eighteenth century was a rather different instrument from the modern viola, larger and more awkward in dimensions, with a less "speaking" tone. That is one reason why so few composers chose it as the protagonist in concerted works. Mozart loved and played the instrument but used it soloistically only in the Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364, where he took care to couple it with the more brilliant violin and to retune its strings up a notch or two.

Nevertheless, in this collection EMI has made a canny selection from slim pickings. (Conspicuously missing: Karl Stamitz's opus 1 and, less conspicuously, any one of the fifteen viola concertos fathered by Alessandro Rolla.) The Hoffmeister concerto has been absent from the catalog for some time; this seems to be its debut on compact disc. It is a dignified work with a mournful middle Adagio and a cheerful concluding movement, not unlike those in many works of Mozart. Hoffmeister was, after all, a friend, fellow Mason and sometime publisher of the divine Wolfgang.

I find no current listing for Hummel's Fantaisie for Viola and Orchestra, but there was an old recording of it by Ernst Wallfisch. Then it was called a potpourri, not a fantasy. Hummel undoubtedly gave it the less formal but more truthful title of "Potpourri." It was published without opus number, an indication that he did not think it important enough for an official number, or that he felt it was only partially his own invention since it makes prominent use of several Mozart tunes, including "Il mio tesoro" from Don Giovanni. It is a single-movement work, barely over seven minutes in length, and it's bewitching—not only for its lively writing for the viola but for its prominent use of clarinets in the accompaniment.

Joseph Schubert is the oldest composer on the disc. Born forty years before the famous Schubert, he outlived him by nine years. He is a composer unknown to Baker's Dictionary, the Schwann catalog, and myself. The annotator tells us that he was born in Bohemia, became principal violin at the Dresden Court Chapel, wrote some operas and, among other concerted works, three viola concertos. The one in C Major, heard here, is a substantial composition, nearly twenty-two minutes in length. While listening to it I felt throughout that I was in familiar territory. I could even hum along in places. And yet I had never heard it before. The reason can be summed up in a single word: Mozart. It latches onto so many Mozart clichés that it, too should perhaps have been called a potpourri. But Joseph Schubert was a competent confectioner of Mozart's and other people's ideas and one shouldn't be hard on him for using the common coinage of his age. His concerto makes very pleasant listening. Think of it as the viola concerto Mozart never composed. It's concluding rondo, in pseudo-folkish idiom, is particularly delicious.

The Weber Andante and Hungarian Rondo is usually heard in the composer's version for bassoon and orchestra. There are two recordings of the bassoon alternative in the catalog, as well as an inauthentic transcription for clarinet. But the viola was Weber's original choice and this CD gives it its baptism. The Andante is actually a set of variations on a melody in siciliana rhythm, and the "Hungarian" rondo is one of Weber's most witty forays into folk idiom.

This last work is the only one on the disc to make use of a full complement of strings, winds, and horns—that is, of a real orchestra. Les Solistes de Montpellier-Moscou spring eagerly to the challenge of doing it full justice. We are not told how they came by their extraordinary hyphenated name (did Moscow come to Montpellier, or vice versa?), nor are we supplied with any factoids about the viola soloist, Gérard Causse. But it is evident from his name that he is French rather than Russian, and from the cover photograph that he is young and pleasant-looking, and from his playing that he is a master of his instrument. His sound is big, bold, warm, and unapologetic. With an artist of this caliber, the viola may at last come into its own. The sound spectrum is EMI at its finest.

-- David Johnson, FANFARE [5/1994] Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Viola in D major by Franz Anton Hoffmeister
Performer:  Gérard Caussé (Viola)
Conductor:  Gérard Caussé
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Solistes de Moscou-Montpellier Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 12/1993 
Venue:  Salle Beracasa, Corum, Montpellier 
Length: 18 Minutes 54 Secs. 
Notes: This work was revised by Ulrich Drüner. 
2.
Potpourri for Viola and Orchestra in G minor, Op. 94 "Fantasia" by Johann Nepomuk Hummel
Performer:  Gérard Caussé (Viola)
Conductor:  Gérard Caussé
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Solistes de Moscou-Montpellier Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1820; Weimar, Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/1993 
Venue:  Salle Beracasa, Corum, Montpellier 
Length: 7 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Notes: This work was reconstructed by Fernand Oubradous. 
3.
Concerto for Viola in C major by Joseph Schubert
Performer:  Gérard Caussé (Viola)
Conductor:  Gérard Caussé
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Solistes de Moscou-Montpellier Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/1993 
Venue:  Salle Beracasa, Corum, Montpellier 
Length: 21 Minutes 51 Secs. 
Notes: This work was revised by Karkheinz Schulz-Hauser. 
4.
Andante and Rondo Ungarese for Viola and Orchestra in C minor, J 79 by Carl Maria von Weber
Performer:  Gérard Caussé (Viola)
Conductor:  Gérard Caussé
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Solistes de Moscou-Montpellier Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1809/1813; Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/1993 
Venue:  Salle Beracasa, Corum, Montpellier 
Length: 9 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Notes: This work was revised by Georg Schünemann. 

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