Les Vents Français: Concertante!
The sinfonia (or symphonie) concertante developed mainly in the orchestral centres of Mannheim and Paris and, the informative booklet tells us, often closed a concert, so the emphasis is on light-heartedness – more concerto than symphony, then. These five works are fine examples of the form, none of them plumbing any particular depths but each providing pleasant diversion.
Virtuosity too, and it would be hard to find a more able, agile and fluent ensemble than Les Vents Français to do full justice to them. Paul Meyer’s clarinet, especially, gurgles, giggles and dances through works by Danzi, Devienne and Mozart, and Radovan Vlatkovic´’s horn-playing ranges from eloquent cantabile to breathtaking acrobatics. Both Mozart and Devienne spin sets of variations in their finales, allowing each instrument its turn in the spotlight.
Franz Danzi displays classical grace in his E flat Sinfonia, arranged in the 19th century for wind quintet instead of quartet, while his Op 41 in B flat for flute and clarinet is melodious in a Weberian fashion. François Devienne darkens the tone in the minor-key central movement of his F major work, even if it is interrupted by the minuet finale after less than a minute and a half. Ignaz Pleyel’s work is terser, erring perhaps more towards Haydn’s style than Mozart’s. And Mozart’s work itself is naturally the finest of all, notwithstanding doubts as to its authorship. It gets a performance as fine as any you’re likely to hear, from its majestic opening movement, via the sheer beauty of its Adagio, to the playful wit of its finale. The Munich Chamber Orchestra provide attentive accompaniment but it is the performances by this unparalleled group of soloists that mark out this exquisite pair of discs.