Music Web International- it provides rare delight
January 23, 2010
The booklet has an interesting note about the history of Viennese coffee houses. The listener is invited to imagine being present on a leisurely Sunday afternoon in one of these houses sometime around 1800 and listening to these players as the “house band”. I have no idea whether such a band might have comprised recorder and guitar - the sound and pitch of the recorder might tend to make conversation difficult in a small room, but for the non-scholar this is probably no matter when the result is as enjoyable as it is here. I note that none of the works on the disc were in fact written for this combination - most were for flute, violin or “csaken” (a folk instrument similar in size and range to a recorder) and guitar, but the arrangements are convincing and there is no feeling that the music has been given a inappropriate face-lift.
Only Beethoven and to a lesser extent Giuliani are familiar names as composers, and even then the former is represented by two of his least characteristic works, originally for mandolin and piano. They are charming miniatures which do sound better in their original and more tangy scoring but the arrangements are tasteful and do no great harm to the style and character of the music. The Giuliani is a bigger work in every way, in three movements ending with a Rondo Militaire. It is essentially a sunny piece full of Italianate melodies and charm. Most of the other pieces draw on other works to some extent. The Carulli for instance is based on “God save the Queen” and the Küffner includes variations on the Marseillaise. Both are entertaining and the latter is especially comical in the indignities it imposes on the tune.
Nothing on this disc is of any great musical consequence but everything is full of charm. For the most part the players simply present the music for what it is, without affectation or obvious showmanship but with considerable style, panache and, especially as far as the recorder is concerned, virtuosity. Taken in excess it might seem like an excessively sweet cup of coffee, but taken in judicious quantities it provides rare delight. The recording is clear and the booklet full and interesting - just the way to present unfamiliar material.
John Sheppard (January 2010)