Symphonies Concertantes, Opp. 9 & 10; Symphony in G
Yury Revich, Libor Ježek (violin), Pavla Honsová (viola); Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice/Michael Halász
Naxos 8.574306 63:34 mins
Peerless fencer, boxer, swimmer, swordsman, skater, marksman, abolitionist, soldier and dancer, not to mention innovative virtuoso violinist and leading conductor. Few composers have had a more remarkable or diversely accomplished life than Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Born in Guadeloupe in 1745 to a black enslaved mother and a plantation owning French father, he moved in the highest echelons of French society and was renowned across Europe until Napoleon’s racist attempt to erase him from history.
His surviving output is relatively modest, but certainly not lacking in quality as is apparent from the five works on Naxos’s third disc devoted to Bologne (a shame they persist in mis-spelling his name as ‘Boulogne’). This newcomer boasts four of Bologne’s eight Symphonies Concertantes, a genre much in vogue in 1770s Paris, capped by his only true symphony. Violinists Yury Revich and Libor Ježek clearly relish their solo parts in the Op. 9 Symphonies Concertantes, though placing them further apart in the mix would have brought out their interplay more clearly. Joined by violist Pavla Honsová for the Op. 10 pair, the extended unaccompanied passage towards the end of the second where their three lines interweave is delightfully perky.
There are a few tutti passages where a greater sense of direction from the orchestra would be welcome. Overall, though, Michael Halász and the Czech Chamber Philharmonic bring grace and vigour to the Symphonies Concertantes while the Symphony bounces along full of charm.