Sergio Azzolini

Johann Georg Neruda: Trio Sonatas; Bassoon Concerto

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The glittering electoral court city of Dresden suffered heavy damage during the Seven Years' War and was displaced from the forefront of musical developments. But the city was still home to a host of talented musicians, and Germany's CPO label and Südwestfunk radio network deserve credit for unearthing the work of one of them, violinist and composer Johann Georg Neruda. The four trio sonatas recorded here date from the mid-1760s, and there is an undated bassoon concerto that seems contemporary with those. Viewed in light of Viennese developments, or even those of Hamburg, the trio sonata was a somewhat old-fashioned genre by then, and Neruda tends to rely too much on chains of sentimental suspensions. But he throws a lot of things at the wall, and some of them stick. The four trio sonatas are anything but formulaic. One of them (and the bassoon concerto, as well) ends with a very tight little minuet movement. Some of the allegros have traces of sonata form. Many passages in the Trio Sonata No. 2 flirt with quartet-like textures. The bassoon concerto is not in a class with Vivaldi's, but the central movement is unexpectedly serious. The historical-instrument group Parnassi Musici plays with a sympathetic ear to the diversity of styles in the music, but the sound is too live and tends to emphasize its tendency to apply a brittle crescendo to the middle of each phrase. Though these pieces aren't lost masterpieces, they're fine case studies in the way styles percolated across Europe in the middle of the eighteenth century, and any scholar or lover of the period may enjoy them.

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