Monn

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Monn
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Cello Concerto in G minor; Harpsichord Concerto in D; Harpsichord Concerto in G minor; Violin Concerto in B flat
PERFORMER: Rainer Zipperling (cello), Sabine Bauer (harpsichord), Mary Utiger (violin); La Stagione Frankfurt/Michael Schneider
CATALOGUE NO: 999 391-2
Little is known about the Austrian composer Georg Matthias Monn. And what is known only deepens his ‘man of mystery’ status: he ‘never drank wine’, had a ‘gloomy disposition’ and ‘always dressed in black’! Though he’s usually regarded as a minor precursor of Viennese Classicism, the notes here claim a more influential role for him in the transition from Baroque idioms to the later ‘aesthetic of expression’.

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Monn’s Cello Concerto certainly makes the case, with vigorous, varied outer movements and a haunting Adagio. But the disc’s other concertos disappoint. The violin piece is a modest success, but the D major harpsichord concerto is an early work, devoid of character, and the G minor is simply a transcription of the Cello Concerto.

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Monn died, aged 33, in 1750, about the time CPE Bach was writing his cello concertos. Late Baroque in form, they also reveal this composer’s expressive qualities, notably in the eloquent slow movements. Played on bland-sounding modern instruments, this Naxos recording is a lacklustre, flaccid affair, with soloist and orchestra showing no real empathy for Bach or each other. The brilliant performances by Anner Bylsma and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (Virgin Veritas) remain absolutely the best buy. Graham Lock