Vanhal, Dittersdorf

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COMPOSERS: Dittersdorf,Vanhal
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Double Bass Concerto in D
PERFORMER: Chi-Chi Nwanoku (double bass); Swedish CO/Paul Goodwin
At a famous quartet party in Vienna in the 1780s, Mozart and Haydn were joined by two fellow-composers, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf and his pupil Johann Baptist Vanhal. If, in their pauses for refreshment, they went beyond gossip to shop-talk, they might have discussed writing for the string instrument not represented at their party, the double bass – for which Mozart wrote a brilliant obbligato part in a concert aria, Haydn a concerto which is now lost, and Dittersdorf and Vanhal the substantial concertos recorded here. The British bassist Chi-Chi Nwanoku negotiates their surprising flights of virtuosity with considerable panache – even adding to the difficulties in one alternative cadenza of her own – and makes the most of their equally surprising singing melodies. It is not clear from Rodney Slatford’s otherwise helpful note whether she adopts the Viennese tuning of the time. Certainly she does not follow the contemporary practice of tuning the strings up a semitone – although this might have allowed her somewhat reticent instrument to stand out a little more against the neat accompaniments of Paul Goodwin and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. Nevertheless, especially if taken one D major concerto at a time, this is a most enjoyable disc. Anthony Burton