Willem de Fesch

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COMPOSERS: Willem de Fesch
LABELS: Olympia
WORKS: Violin Concertos, Op. 2/2 & 5, Op. 3/6 & Op. 5/5; Concerti grossi, Op. 2/6, Op. 3/3 & 4, Op. 5/2, Op. 10/4 & 5
PERFORMER: Gordan Nikolitch (violin); Orchestre d’Auvergne/Arie van Beek
The Dutchman Willem de Fesch was one of many foreign musicians who made their way to London during the first half of the 18th century. This disc, one of the first to focus entirely on de Fesch, includes concertos from four printed sets, the last of which, Op. 10, was published in London in 1741. Though the music historian Dr Charles Burney considered these ‘dry and uninteresting’, I confess to having in them at least a modest degree of pleasure. However, the most ambitious works here are not the concerti grossi but the concertos for solo violin and strings. Like his slightly younger contemporary, Locatelli, de Fesch seems to have had a feeling for technical virtuosity, though he remained more conservative than the Italian in his tonal range. The performances, on modern instruments, are lively and quite style-conscious, responding to the many poetic ideas contained, above all in the slow movements, a number of which, like the Largo of Op. 2/6, are affecting. Gordan Nikolitch is an agile and expressive violinist and the conductor Arie van Beek evidently an ardent champion of his Baroque composer compatriot. In spite of small blemishes in orchestral timbre, this is a rewarding programme which explores territory hitherto largely overlooked in our own time. Nicholas Anderson