Contains World Premiere Recordings
The first question to ask must be: how could it possibly come about that certain essential works by a composer which display no flaw or failure in musical conception or compositional execution stayed dormant in libraries for well over two hundred years and had to wait so long for publication and audience attention?
Three concertos for double bass and orchestra by Johann Matthias Sperger, who was not just a composer but also the most renowned double bassist of the 18th century, performed and recorded here by orchestra and soloist according to their original scores. The decision was taken here to select, from Sperger’s vast legacy of compositions – which includes no less than eighteen double bass concertos – just those early works called No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4. These works are all products of the years of Sperger’s first employment as a double bassist, between 1777 and 1783, in the court orchestra of the archbishop of Hungary, the duke Joseph Graf von Batthyány in Pressburg. They date specifically from the years 1778 and 1779. Sperger’s treatment of the solo double bass in a way quite new in his day as well as the execution of the orchestral part recall the Cello Concertos of no less a figure than Joseph Haydn. Already just the tonal range demanded here, spanning four and a half octaves, shatters all previous conceptions and lets the double bass enter those cantabile spheres once peculiar to the cello or violin. Melody and virtuosity leave nothing to be desired and demand of the soloist true mastery of his instrument.
The soloist in these recordings – Ján Krigovský – uses gut strings, as was common practice at the time of the works’ composition well over two hundred years ago, bringing out the warm sound of the instruments. The chamber orchestra Collegium Wartberg 430 provides highly authentic accompaniment. To do justice to history and for the pleasure of today’s audience the present recordings were made in the same auditorium as Johann Matthias Sperger first presented these concertos in: the “Hall of Mirrors” in the Primate’s Palace of Bratislava (formerly Pressburg).
Ján Krigovský – Double Bass
Collegium Wartberg 430 – Chamber Orchestra
Total time: 01:09:17
|Original Recording Format|
|Release Date||October 14, 2022|
On my first listening to these concertos, had I not already known better I would have thought these the works of Haydn. They have a level of imaginative innovation that I find so very reminiscent of the master. Noteworthy is Sperger’s symphonic approach to the orchestration. In the Concerto No. 3 he includes not only the two oboes and two horns (as usually found in other compositions of the period), but also two trumpets and kettledrums—not found even in Haydn’s Cello Concertos! And that Sperger would dare to further enrich the orchestral colors of Concerto No. 4 with a dulcimer is just delicious. Perhaps this is born out of the partly folkloric quality of the music in this work. Whatever the reason, the result is quite an entertaining surprise.
Overall, the technical demands on the double bass soloist verge on the extreme in places—well beyond what I would have contemplated for a work from this time period. This music is no dilettante’s dalliance. These are works demanding substantial technical skill, and, in it’s day, highly innovative technique to accomplish some of its demands. All of which bassist Jan Krigovský navigates with suave agility…
In conclusion, consider me delightfully surprised and entertained by these very engaging works. They are beautifully performed by Krigovský and Collegium Wartberg 430, and superbly recorded by Bert van der Wolf.
Once again, highly recommended.
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