Reinhard Goebel, an esteemed Baroque music connoisseur, ranks Zelenka (along with J. S. Bach and Handel) among the five best composers of the first half of the 18th century. In his accompanying text, he refers to him as “grandiose and fantastic”. And the cycle of six sonatas for two oboes, bassoon and continuo serves to prove that his assertion is far from being mere hyperbole, that it is a justified opinion worthy of being giving serious thought. Zelenka’s sonatas are among his “free” works, which he wrote urged by innermost needs, above and beyond his official commitments. The pieces reach the very limits of musical possibilities – both as regards placing high technical requirements on the performers and the compositional methods and means of expression applied, including the striking architecture of the cycle as a whole. The result is magnificent and fascinating indeed; owing to its complexity and timelessness, the sonatas may perhaps only be compared with J. S. Bach’s six cello suites.
And when these gems are undertaken by musicians as open-minded and of such superlative quality as members of the Berliner Philhamoniker, the listener can look forward to a great feast. The present recording is extraordinary due to the combination of the technical facilities of modern instruments and the profound insight into Baroque performance. Yet another opportunity to marvel at Zelenka’s genius.