Music for a Viennese Salon
Kraus: Quintet in D; Dittersdorf: Duet in E flat; Haydn: Symphony No. 94 in G, Hob. I:94 ‘Surprise’ (arr. for flute and strings)
Avie AV2423 66:46 mins
Well before the days of frequent public concerts, the salon was a major forum for composers and performers, and their cultured admirers; a place where Beethoven’s piano sonatas and Schubert’s songs first delighted an, admittedly select, musical public. This imaginatively planned recording is based on a Viennese afternoon salon from 1801.
Haydn’s ‘Surprise’ Symphony in Johann Peter Salomon’s flute and string arrangement – such arrangements being the means by which these late symphonic masterpieces reached a wide audience – is the biggest beast at the event. The other two works are Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf’s five-movement Duetto for the unusual combination of viola and violone and a Quintet for flute and strings by Joseph Martin Kraus, an exact contemporary of Mozart.
Playing on period instruments, Night Music favour for the most part brisk tempos and neat articulation. The real curiosity is Dittersdorf’s Duetto. Daniel Elyar, viola, and Heather Miller Lardin, violone, manage to bring considerable grace to its two minuets and concluding set of variations, but the rather subterranean combination stretches patience in the central Adagio.
Kraus’s Quintet, on the other hand, emerges as a work of broad scope and considerable originality with a big-boned first movement, an elaborately textured Largo and a muscular, imaginatively-developed finale. Playing an eight-keyed flute, Steven Zohn’s clarity of tone is a delight in both the Kraus and Haydn. In the latter, the performers bring an infectious swing to the Minuet and a credibly symphonic sweep to the finale. Overall, however, the ensemble is not always perfect and occasionally intonation in the strings is a problem.