Rating: 3 of 6 Stars
Leopold Jan Antonín Koeluch is one of the better composers of the Classical era who wrote in the Haydnesque style. Actually, Haydn often performed Koeluch's orchestral music, obviously affectionate toward a younger composer trying to emulate the master. However, Koeluch is many steps behind Haydn in harmonic invention and melodic inspiration.
Each of the three programmed works is enjoyable, but a little Koeluch goes a long way. The outer movements are best – rousing and exciting music that can help cover the lack of great melodies. The slow middle movements are another matter, displaying neither significant emotional depth nor the desired charm to somewhat offset the lack of depth and inspiration. The least rewarding of the three slow middle movements is the Andantino con variation from the Piano Concerto in D Major. It has an attractive theme followed by nine variations that simply aren't sufficiently varied. Any changes are cosmetic ones involving tempo, dynamics, and register; the basic melody line keeps coming back constantly and leads to boredom well before the end of the movement.
Don's Conclusions: A mild recommendation is the best I can do for this Novalis disc. Better alternatives include a Teldec disc of Koeluch symphonies played by the period instrument group Concerto Koln that performs with more panache and sharper phrasing than the Zürich Chamber Orchestra. Staying within the Novalis family, there's an exceptional disc of piano concertos from Franz Xaver Mozart which are much more appealing than the Koeluch piano concerto. For those still interested in the Koeluch/Novalis recording, be assured that the sound quality is fine though hardly of state-of-the-art proportion.
Copyright © 2005/2006, Don Satz