Peter Szabo / Sinfonietta Pannonica

Johann Baptist Vanhal: 3 Cello Concertos

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Johann Baptist Vanhal -- as a composer, performer, and educator -- rubbed shoulders with many of the well-known giants of his time. He famously performed frequently in a string quartet (playing cello) along with Haydn, Mozart, and Dittersdorf, and he was one of the few composers of his time to succeed financially without benefit of aristocratic sponsorship. Despite his fame during his lifetime and his extensive output, his music is woefully uncelebrated today. This Hungaroton album celebrates three such neglected works in a world premiere of three concertos discovered by cellist and conductor Péter Szabó. Though reminiscent of the great Haydn cello concertos, Vanhal's personal familiarity with the instrument is noticeable in his skillful writing that allows the cello to demonstrate its breadth of colors and technical capabilities. Szabó leads the Sinfonietta Pannonica, a group founded in 2010. Both Szabó and his orchestra put forth energetic, lively performances. The chamber orchestra in particular is well in tune and produces a generally clear, crisp, and even articulation throughout. Szabó's playing sometimes falls a bit short of his ensemble's. Intonation frequently seems flat compared to the orchestra, and Szabó's right arm tends to become less meticulous and clean when the passages become increasingly challenging. Still, listeners interested in exploring previously unavailable and worthwhile contributions to the classical cello repertoire will still find merit in this recording.

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