From Imperial Vienna
‘Aus kaiserliche Zeit – From Imperial Vienna’ implies a concept, juxtaposing the music of three composers of different generations and unearthing a common link. That this project also involves three recording venues over a period of almost 16 years makes one suspect that it’s more of a mopping-up exercise and that any overarching theme has been applied at a later stage – and, indeed, a little research shows that all but the concerto has been issued before. Haydn and Hummel assuredly lived and worked in the Vienna of the Habsburgs, while Vivaldi went there in 1740 for an ultimately unsuccessful operatic venture and died there the following year in abject poverty.
The Hummel and Vivaldi as presented here (both recorded in 1999) have less to do with imperial Vienna than with the rather later aesthetic of Jascha Heifetz, who popularised the former’s Rondo favori and the slow movement of one of the latter’s double concertos in his own arrangements. The Hummel is a show-off piece, while the Vivaldi is removed from its Venetian surroundings and transplanted into a harmonic sound world closer to Strauss or Elgar.
The Haydn sonatas, recorded in 2009, also masquerade under false pretences, being arrangements based on music from the Op 77 string quartets, presumably by Ferdinand David (minuets are omitted to make them three-movement sonatas). These are frankly the best music here and Elena Denisova is a spirited advocate, well matched by her pianist, Alexei Kornienko.
The double concerto is thus the only music here performed in its authentic state. The most recent of the recordings (2015), it nevertheless has a strangely old-fashioned feel about it, the modern instruments and washy acoustic recalling analogue-era recordings by the likes of the ASMF. Better in this case to go for the recent version by violinist Riccardo Minasi and harpsichordist Maxim Emelyanychev with Il Pomo d’Oro on period instruments.
The documentation mentions only the concerto and makes no attempt to draw the threads of these disparate pieces together. A missed opportunity, despite some reasonable performances.