Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges was a brilliant swordsman, athlete, violin virtuoso and gifted composer, with a claim to being the most talented figure in an age of remarkable individuals. He was an early and important exponent of the hybrid symphonie concertante – a genre that draws on both the symphony and concerto traditions. This novel format was the ideal platform for expressive inventiveness, providing new textural possibilities through the addition of a second solo violin or viola. The Symphony in G major, which has all of the effervescence typical of Haydn, is an excellent example of the cosmopolitan French symphonic style. Michael Halasz’s first engagement as a conductor was at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz, Munich, where, between 1972 and 1975, he directed all operetta productions. In 1975 he moved to Frankfurt to work as principal Kapellmeister with Christoph von Dohnányi, and here he conducted the most important works of the operatic repertoire. Many engagements as a guest conductor followed and in 1977 Dohnányi took him to the Staatsoper Hamburg as principal Kapellmeister. From 1978 to 1991 he was GMD (general music director) of the Hagen Opera House and in 1991 he took up the post of resident conductor at the Wiener Staatsoper for 20 years.
In content and style the concertante owe much to Haydn, each score in two movements that are never short of attractive thematic material, the soloist’s role musically dancing around a slender orchestral backdrop. Here they include the exciting young Russian-born violinist, Yury Revich, with a famous 1709 Stradivarius, and the deputy leader of the Czech Chamber Orchestra, Libor Jezek, Pavla Honsova the solo viola. Now 83, the conductor, Michael Halasz, obtains very neat playing from the Czech Chamber Philharmonic, his tempos never rushed but always buoyant. In three short movements, the disc is completed by one of the two symphonies written by Saint-Georges, again owing much to Haydn. High-class sound quality, and I greatly commend it to you.
– David's Review Corner (D. Denton)
Today Joseph Bologne is remembered as the first classical composer of African ancestry and also as a noted conductor, violinist, and as a pioneering exponent of the symphonie concertante, a genre that combined the structural characteristics of both the Classical symphony and the 18th concerto grosso, and one that he successfully explored and imprinted with originality.
Michael Halasz leads the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice and soloists Pavla Honsová, Yury Revich, and Libor Ježek with a stylish command of Bologne’s charming music.
– Rafael's Music Notes (R. de Acha)