A newly remastered treasury of Baroque ensemble music from Gabrieli to Haydn, including several recordings receiving their first international CD release.
The Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra was founded by Karl Münchinger in 1946, and it was only after six months of intensive rehearsals that the 31-year-old conductor allowed it to make its debut. The orchestra gave 124 concerts in its first year, and was hailed as the finest chamber-music ensemble in Germany. When Decca issued its first LP in Europe, it was of two Brandenburg Concertos played by the ensemble, and their recordings soon acquired an enviable reputation for Münchinger’s infallible musical instincts and his orchestra’s lively and polished playing.
Having returned to circulation several fine Decca recordings which showcase the conductor’s excellence in choral and Romantic-era music, as well as his classic Art of Fugue arrangement (4825187), Eloquence now presents the most comprehensive set ever released of the Stuttgart CO/ Münchinger Baroque albums, made in mono and stereo between 1951 and 1975. Organised in chronological order of composition, the set opens with a selection of Sonatas and Canzonas by Gabrieli, perfectly illustrating the timeless values of Münchinger’s interpretative vitality even in an era of performance practice vastly different from when he made these pioneering recordings.
Harpsichord continuo support on that album was provided by the brilliant young (and tragically short-lived) organist Brian Runnett, and Münchinger continued to attract the brightest and best of Europe’s musicians to join him in the studio. Star names included the flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal playing both Pergolesi and Bach (on a classic set of the Orchestral Suites), and the cellist Pierre Fournier, who made an impeccably stylish record of rarities by Couperin and Vivaldi. Speaking of the Venetian master, the set contains no fewer than three recordings of The Four Seasons, including the first in stereo (with Werner Krotzinger) from 1958. This was preceded by a 1951 version with the orchestra’s leader, Reinhold Barchet) and followed by a 1970 remake with the Polish violinist Konstanty Kulka. All three were widely praised in their own time for the vivid characterisation of not only the solo part but the naturalistic touches brought out of the accompaniment by Münchinger.
Composers along the way who were revived by the Decca/Münchinger treatment included Wassanaer and Johann Christian Bach, but the set concludes with an elegantly programmed farewell to the Baroque era in the shape of both Haydn’s ‘Farewell’ Symphony (from 1951) and a fugue album of Bach and Beethoven made the following year. It leads smoothly into a companion volume issued by Eloquence showcasing the excellence of Münchinger’s ensemble in Classical-era repertoire (484 0170).
‘Why should a string orchestra be denied this magnificent music? … Münchinger’s ideas … are logical and consistent. In fact the whole thing is very well done.’ Gramophone, April 1970 (Gabrieli)
‘Superb playing by Mr Fournier …The Vivaldi and Couperin items are less commonly heard, and quite beautiful. Recording is excellent.’ High Fidelity, March 1954
‘There have been previous recordings of The Four Seasons … but none can hold a candle to the present set, played in admirably authentic fashion by this remarkable ensemble, who seem able to satisfy both musicologists and ordinary music-lovers alike.’ Gramophone, October 1951 (The Four Seasons with Barchet)
‘Listening to it again I felt that Münchinger and the soloist had really felt the amazing picturesqueness and invention of this marvellous music. The bird-calls are beautifully achieved.’ Gramophone, October 1951 (The Four Seasons with Krotzinger)
‘If there should be a living buyer left for this work he could well find that, for him, on this occasion the newest is indeed the best. Konstanty Kulka plays with sweetness and strength; so do the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra… On quality of recording, the new disc does just have the edge.’ Gramophone, April 1974 (The Four Seasons with Kulka)