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Penguin Guide, January 2009

We already know the Concertino for Cor Anglais, which is played here with a delectable timbre and a nice feeling for light and shade. The Clarinet Concertino brings a touch of melancholy to its opening cantilena, yet the finale chortles. The Flute Concertino also opens with an eloquent aria, but the closing rondo is irrepressibly light-hearted, with an infectiously carefree, Rossinian wit. The Oboe Concertino has a vigorous hunting finale, played here with bouncing zest. The Double Concertino, in three movements, is the most ambitious work. In short, all these concertos are most winning, as elegant as they are inventive, and all the expert soloists (several of whom seem to be interrelated) smilingly convey the music’s Italian sunshine. The Concertos are framed by two contrasting Sinfonias. Both are played very persuasively, and throughout the collection László Kovács and his Budapest chamber orchestra provide supportive and stylish accompaniments. The recording could hardly be bettered, and the result is a collection which will give great and repeated pleasure. Now at Naxos price it is a great bargain.

Fanfare, July 2005

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Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, December 2004

"I suppose Donizetti couldn’t be untuneful if he’d tried. His instrumental concertos (concertinos in fact) offer irrefutable evidence of it though in this field he’s almost an invisible and inaudible feature on the concert platform. Some, it’s true, have been reconstructed – the Sinfonia in G by Bernhard Päuler and the Concertino for Clarinet has been edited from the composer’s sketches – the second movement of which in the original is described as existing in a "very defective" state. So in addition to the occasional nature of these works and the rather occluded place in Donizetti’s compositional life we have to contend with imperfectly preserved scores, reconstructions, orchestrations and the fact that these are, in the main, relatively early works.

I can’t pretend that Naxos has unearthed long buried treasure but there are still plenty of pleasing features. The big portentous sliver of an introduction to the G minor Sinfonia is one – theatrically it gives way almost immediately to lively material in a forward moving Andante. The Flute Concertino is perky, brisk and vocalised whilst the very lightly orchestrated Oboe Concertino is deftly written for the solo instrument – and as elsewhere the Hungarian soloists prove worthy ambassadors. The work for violin, cello and orchestra is very early and has a gracious and charming impress but it’s that for cor anglais which bears a much greater weight of interest in its bright theatricality, full of tonguing demands and tests on the soloist’s legato. The soloist’s tone takes a bit of getting used to – there’s something of a quack to it – but the technical demands are well met.

I liked and welcomed the gravity of the Clarinet Concertino and the kick for the basses in the finale and the very dramatic and public final piece, an In Memoriam for Antonio Capuzzi, violinist and orchestral leader. Again this is a reconstruction but the outline and schema of Larghetto-Allegro Vivace is quite clear.

So no masterpieces. But good recorded sound and notes and a pleasant hour’s worth of music with this unfailingly fluent melodist."

Patrick C Waller
MusicWeb International, November 2004

"Donizetti was a profilic composer, writing over 600 works, of which at least 50 were operas. Today his fame almost entirely rests on operatic works first produced in the period 1832-1835 (i.e. L’Elisir d’amore, Lucrezia Borgia, Maria Stuarda and Lucia di Lammermoor). Earlier in his career he wrote for the piano, chamber music (including at least 17 string quartets) and sacred works. His output seems to have contained little orchestral music but various instrumental concertinos written when he was about 20 have survived and are presented on this disc. All except the concertino for cor anglais required some recent reconstruction, tasks that on this evidence seem to have been worthwhile.

This music is essentially a stream of melody, grateful on the ear and probably to play, generally lacking in profundity but sufficiently varied to sustain interest. The last work was written for the funeral of Antonio Capuzzi, a violinist and leader of the orchestra in Bergamo where Donizetti spent his formative years. The only purely orchestral work here (the other sinfonia is for wind only), it contains some dark and stormy moments but in general, throughout this disc, Donizetti’s music sounds as if it could have been written for the voice. The most ambitious work, and the longest at eleven and a half minutes, is the three movement double concerto for violin and cello but don’t base your expectations of this on Brahms’s magnificent creation in this genre. The two solo parts complement each other well but they don’t get the show entirely to themselves since there are also important wind parts, notably for the flute. To my ears the most memorable work is the concertino for cor anglais which is an andante with a set of variations.

These performances were recorded about ten years ago and originally appeared on the Marco Polo label. Naxos seems to be continuing its sensible policy of re-issuing such discs at bargain price. The six solo artists all give good accounts of themselves and the Camerata Budapest are a modest-sized but excellent band. The recording is natural and consistently well-balanced. Documentation is adequate but a bit skimpier than is usually the case on this label; probably reflecting the fairly obscure origins of the music. The delightful picture on the front cover is of interest since, although anonymously painted, it shows Donizetti with friends in Bergamo. I am guessing but I think he might be second from the right.

This is an enjoyable disc - gracious, undemanding music which is well-played and perfect for relaxation."

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