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aBritish Symphonies
4CDs £16 post-free


W.S. Bennett, Rootham, Moeran,
Bax, Rubbra, Rawsthorne, Berkeley
Alwyn, Grace Williams, Arnold, Wordsworth. Searle, Joubert

Van Dieren Chinese Symphony
Searle Symphonies 3, 5
Shaw Piano Concertos 1 and 2

£11.75 post-free

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Friedrich Hartmann GRAF (1727-1795)
Concerto in C for Flute, Strings, and 2 Horns (1770s) [17:51]
Concerto in G for Flute, Strings, 2 Oboes, and 2 Horns (1770s) [16:02]
Concerto in D for Flute, Strings, and 2 Horns (1770s) [16:15]
Concerto in G for Flute, Strings, and 2 Horns (1770s) [15:31]
Gaby Pas-Van Riet (flute)
Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester, Pforzheim/Johannes Moesus
rec. Ev. Matthäuskirche Pforzheim-Arlinger, September 2011
CPO 777 724-2 [65:57]

In a flute-mad age, Friedrich Hartmann Graf was acclaimed as both a flute virtuoso and a composer, given patronage by the nobility, and receiving honours later in life in Scandinavia and Britain, as well as his native Germany. The outer movements of the present concertos maintain a strong Classical profile, with clean, masculine contours. The slow movements sound simple, but aren't entirely unruffled: the brief outbursts of the C major concerto's Adagio point the way to Beethoven, while that of the second of this program's two G major concertos projects a sombre mystery.
In three of these concertos, Graf supports the strings with just a pair of horns, reinforcing rhythmic thrust in the midrange. An additional pair of oboes in the first G major concerto adds bite to the outer movements and brightens the timbral palette of the Andante grazioso. In both the D major and the second of the G major concerti - we could really use a Köchel-type catalogue here - the start of the finale resolves the final cadence of the slow movement, a nice way to maintain continuity.
Such music practically demands the sort of energetic approach rarely given to "new" Classical repertoire these days, and it receives it here. The Pforzheim-based ensemble isn't large - the string proportions are 4-4-3-2-1 - but the players "bow into" the Allegroswith an incisive vigor befitting a larger orchestra. The finale of the C major concerto - a rondo in form, if not in name - is positively rollicking. These bracing, even robust readings are a tonic.
Oh, yes, the soloist; mustn't forget her. Gaby Pas-Van Riet produces a relaxed, pleasingly chiffy tone, a nice change from the air-resistant sounds popularized or, at least, propagated by Rampal and Galway in the 1980s. She takes nothing for granted, inflecting even the simplest motifs expressively. Her phrasing of the scales, arpeggios, and curlicues of the passagework is deft and shapely.
The conducting of Johannes Moesus is, as I've suggested, stylish and committed. The sound quality is excellent. Enjoy!
Stephen Francis Vasta
Stephen Francis Vasta is a New York-based conductor, coach, and journalist.