LABELS: Virgin Veritas
WORKS: Symphony No. 26; Symphony No. 52; Symphony No. 53; Sinfonia concertante; Violin Concerto in C; Violin Concerto in G
PERFORMER: David Watkin (cello), Anthony Robson (oboe), Felix Warnock (bassoon); Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Elizabeth Wallfisch (violin), La Petite Bande/Sigiswald Kuijken
CATALOGUE NO: VBD 5 61800 2 Reissue (1988, 1992)
Of the two violin concertos, that in G major is not fully authenticated and only comes to life in the gamesome finale. But, like the much better C major, it receives near-ideal advocacy from Elizabeth Wallfisch: nimble, sweet-toned, immaculately tuned. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment provides buoyant support here and in the urbanely inventive late Sinfonia concertante, where Wallfisch and her excellent fellow soloists play with style, spirit and an infectious sense of give and take.
I’ve heard tauter, more incandescent performances of Symphonies Nos 26 and 52, notably from Tafelmusik on Sony in No. 52. And with his measured tempi, Kuijken rather misses the balletic grace of No. 52’s Andante and the jauntiness of the variations in No. 53. But for the most part these are lively, sharply etched readings, neatly played and cleanly recorded – though the louring horns in No. 52 are too backwardly balanced.
The Sinfonia concertante also features in the latest offering in Naxos’s rapidly evolving Haydn symphony cycle. Using modern instruments, the performance is perfectly efficient, but yields to Wallfisch and co in élan and imagination. The two early symphonies, too, receive decent, rather solid readings, though the cello solo in the Adagio of No. 13 and the neo-Baroque violin-cello duet in the slow movement of No. 36 are affectingly done. Still, with the competition sparse in both symphonies, this disc is certainly worth considering. Richard Wigmore