Here we have a disc recorded in July of 1996 but not released until September of 2000. Additionally, we have Christopher Hogwood, a conductor who led the Academy of Ancient Music in some of their most successful recordings but who now does not have a steady contract. And we have Andrew Manze, a violinist who was a hired soloist with the Academy at the time of the recording but is now its music director. What does this suggest? It suggests a disc that languished in the record company's vaults until Manze's name and fame got it released. Why, then, did it remain unreleased for five years?
Because this is a pretty boring disc. Manze is fine: virtuosic, interesting, even quirky in The Cuckoo concerto. The Academy is fine: a little hard and kind of brittle but on top of the notes. The sound is dry and airless, which does not help. But what really kills the performance is Hogwood's tedious and sloppy conducting. Clipping note values does not yield a crisp performance; eliminating expressive markings does not create a fresh interpretation; providing an unyielding backdrop for the soloist does not amount to accompaniment. One gets the sense, perhaps mistakenly, that Hogwood could not have possibly cared less. Or at least one hopes he could not have cared less. Recommended to people who want to hear what Manze sounded like before he hit the big time, or to people who have to have every note Hogwood ever recorded.