Zelenka: Orchestral Works
This three-CD package contains all the extant orchestral music by Zelenka. Here to a greater extent, even than in the six trio sonatas which are reviewed on page 1181, the individuality of this composer is vividly on display. The horn writing in the five Capriccios makes even Telemann sound conservative though there are plenty of stylistic traits common to both composers mainly deriving from the influence of a central European folk tradition. Evidence of this can be heard at once in movements such as ''Paysan'', ''Canarie'' and ''Villanella'' where folk-like melodies and characteristic dance rhythms abound. Each Capriccio is scored for pairs of oboes, horns, a bassoon and a string ensemble sometimes with and sometimes without viola. The horns have the best or, perhaps worst time of it with uncommonly high parts—the opening movement of the Capriccio No. 4 in A major is a notorious example—and a dominating role almost throughout. The music's originality is easily matched by its charm, at times, irresistible. The second movement ''Canarie'' of the Capriccio No. 2 in G major is enchanting as is its three-section opening movement which begins in an identical manner to the first movement of Handel's Organ Concerto in F major, Op. 4 No. 4. Few listeners will be disappointed either by the Capriccios themselves or by the performances which are crisp and invigorating.
The remaining works are in a mixture of forms: a sinfonia, an overture-suite with a markedly Handelian opening, a piece in three movements formally occupying territory somewhere between a suite and a concerto and eccentrically called Hipocondrie, and a concerto grosso for four concertante instruments and strings. There are interesting features in each of these works though occasionally, as in the Allegro finale of the Concerto in G major, recurring patterns are somewhat overworked. Zelenka can be repetitive in a way which Telemann usually though not invariably, avoided, but the initial ideas are often so fresh in their conception that a degree of forbearance is perhaps called for; but at his best, as he certainly is in the extended concerto-like Allegro opening movement of the Sinfonia in A minor, Zelenka can hold his own comfortably alongside most of his German and Italian contemporaries. The Italian influence, and that of Venice in particular is strong in this robust piece and not only the solo passages but also the tuttis are splendidly varied.
Berne Camerata and an impressive line-up of soloists present a vibrant portrait of Zelenka in this fascinating anthology. The playing is sympathetic and stylistically alert whilst unashamedly making use of instrumental refinements and interpretative gestures of our own time. A thoroughly estimable achievement well documented and pleasingly recorded.'