Trondheim Concertos 2L172SABD

The Trondheim Concertos
Joseph Meck (1690-1758)
Violin Concerto in G major, Op 1 No 9, XM 141
Anonymous, ‘Sigr. Opfermand’
Violin Concerto in C minor, XM 49
Johan Henrich Berlin (1741-1807)
Sonata a Cembalo, Violino è Violoncello, XM 3 (ca. 1780)
Antonio Vivaldi (1768-1741)
Violin Concerto in A minor, RV 335 ‘The Cuckoo’, XM 140
Sigurd Imsen (solo violin)
Baroque Ensemble of the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra
rec. 2021, Lademoen Church, Trondheim, Norway
2L 2L172SABD [51]

The first thing to say about this release is with regard to its recording quality, which is stunning in every respect. Morton Lindberg’s philosophy of making intimate sounding recordings in large spaces works ideally here, with a small orchestra or chamber group adorned with a fine resonance but captured in every detail. The harpsichord sparkles but blends, strings are colourful and rhythmic with crisp highs and deeply thrumming bass sonorities, while the soloist has free rein for every kind of expression without being unnaturally spot lit in the mix.

While falling outside the Hanseatic ports of northern Europe, Trondheim was economically active in the 18th century, with a wealth of exports of copper from the Trøndelag mines and numerous other natural resources including timber and fish. Trondheim therefore enjoyed considerable wealth in this period, and attracted the latest fashions, literature and music from the rest of Europe. This recording presents a selection of music found in the Gunnerus Library in collections that probably belonged to the town musician Johan Daniel Berlin (1714–87) and his circle of colleagues. These manuscripts provide insights into how European instrumental music became integrated into one of this region’s largest provincial towns while the union between Denmark and Norway was still ongoing.

Amongst the most impressive works here is Joseph Meck’s Violin Concero in G major, Op 1 No 9, which is also known from an Amsterdam publication and elsewhere, so must have enjoyed a certain popularity in its day. The instrumentation is given the full treatment here, with continuo including harpsichord and lute, and this is a glorious virtuoso opening to the programme. There is not a great deal of detail to say about Meck’s life, but there is even less to reveal about Sgr. Opfermand, whose identity is entirely unknown. Unusually composed in C minor, this is a less spectacular concerto, or at least gives that impression due to the absence of a harpsichord, but with the addition of an organ providing contrast of timbre and substance in sonority. This is delightful music, with an elegant and expressive central Grave movement, and plenty of stylistic features and solo fireworks to keep us alert.

Further contrast in this well-curated programme follows in the shape of Johan Heinrich Berlin’s Sonata, in which there is a significant part for fortepiano. This is supported by a cello in the bass, and topped by a violin part that has some soloistic features but is also very much part of the chamber music texture of the whole, which is in fact led by the keyboard. There are plenty of tricky corners in this piece, but these musicians have no need for somewhere to hide, and with its fascinating unison passages and playful and at times even dramatic instrumental exchanges this is a valuable addition to this concerto collection. Vivaldi’s concerto ‘The Cuckoo’ is famous in its own right today and was a hit in his time. We are told that the copy found in Trondheim is a copy of the London Walsh edition, as it carries the same mistakes in the score. As with all of these concertos, Sigurd Imsen’s solo playing is excellent, fitting in with the period style of the performance but with gorgeous phrasing, impeccable intonation, and even some touches of vibrato to add expressiveness to certain notes.

As is often the case with 2L releases, this package comes with a Blu-ray disc and a standard stereo/SACD hybrid CD, so you can surround-sound the whole thing every which way. Due to technical breakdowns I am obliged to listen in standard stereo at the moment, but the whole thing sounds wonderful through both headphones and speakers, and is in every way a demonstration recording that also contains fabulous music in superlative performances.

Dominy Clements

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Renata Kubala, Cecilia Wåhlberg (violin), Verona Rapp (viola), Torleif Holm (cello), Fredrik Blikeng (violone), Thomas C. Boysen (lute and theorbo), Gunnhild Tønder (cembalo and organ), Christina Kobb (fortepiano)