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Heather K. Scott
Strings Magazine, March 2012

[Chiang] channels something extra special—her powerful sound is explosive. With the deft Baltimore orchestra at her back, Chiang stands at attention, creating a virtuosic wall of sound. It is hard not to hold your breath as she executes the amazing runs penned by Stamitz. © 2012 Strings Magazine Read complete review

WETA, December 2011

outstanding and expressive violists…Victoria Chiang…joins fellow Baltimoreans Markand Thakar and his ensemble the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra for three viola concertos from the last quarter of the 18th century. Recorded at Goucher College in Towson, the two concertos by Hoffmeister (one with cadenzas by Suzanne Beia) and one by Carl Stamitz exhibit the best of their genre. © 2011 WETA

Terry Robbins
The WholeNote, November 2011

…the recent Naxos release of a CD of Viola Concertos by Stamitz and Hoffmeister (8.572162) is a welcome one. It’s an intriguing one as well, for viola concertos were not that common in the 18th century. Violist Victoria Chang is perfectly at home in this charming, if somewhat insubstantial, music and receives excellent support from the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra under Markand Thakar.

Carl Bauman
American Record Guide, November 2011

These three viola concertos are all pleasant works of the late classical era…

This budget priced issue is well worth investigating.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

MusicWeb International, September 2011

There is no doubting…the craftsmanship that has gone into these Concertos and especially the writing for viola. It is given a relatively uncommon chance to shine as a bringer of melodic cheer, not tear, especially in the Hoffmeister works. Of these the first movement of the B flat Concerto, featuring a fine cadenza written by Suzanne Beia, and the Adagio of the D major work, are particularly memorable.

The Baltimore Chamber Orchestra perform on modern instruments, but with appropriate restraint and elegance. Their music director Markand Thakar guides them thoughtfully through the scores. Though not especially challenging for the ensemble, they nevertheless require just this kind of insightful reading to bring them to life.

Victoria Chiang’s job is somewhat harder, with plenty of technical demands, especially double-stopping in the Stamitz, that have no chance, however, of catching her out. Her tone is attractively rich, her intonation splendid and her fingers nimble.

Sound quality is good, warm and well balanced… The CD booklet is slim but informative…, September 2011

…the concertos by Carl Philipp Stamitz…and Franz Anton Hoffmeister…provide a fine opportunity for Victoria Chiang to excel in the solo role, with Markand Thakar and the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra offering balanced and attractively buoyant backup. The Stamitz concerto is the most interesting of the three and the most “violistic,” emphasizing the solo instrument’s warmth and glow in an unusually orchestrated work that includes divisi violas plus clarinets rather than oboes—the clarinet’s range and sound world being closer to that of the viola. The virtuosity that this concerto demands is substantial, including harmonics and left-hand pizzicati that make it sound in some ways like a 19th-century work rather than one written around 1774. The Hoffmeister concertos are also well made, but they are more ordinary in sound and approach. Both are elegant enough in their first movements and cheerful enough in their finales, and both have slow movements that are wistful rather than profound. Hoffmeister’s orchestration is more traditional than that of Stamitz, and Hoffmeister emphasizes the viola’s upper range to a greater degree, creating works that are certainly pleasant…they are filled with lovely moments and are quite well played on this CD.

James Manheim, August 2011

…Baltimore-based violist Victoria Chiang and the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra under Markand Thakar deliver a decent performance of the viola concerto here, with a feel for its most distinctive quality: its large, discursive structure. The solo part itself includes multiple stops, harmonics, and passagework worthy of a true virtuoso; Chiang never lets you imagine the sweat. The sound, from an auditorium at Baltimore’s Goucher College, is pretty basic, and in general this release is oriented toward those with specialist interests, but the Stamitz performance is very fine.

David Hurwitz, July 2011

These are attractive, elegant works in a somewhat generic classical style, with singing opening allegros employing triadic themes, touching slow movements with some minor-key inflections, and perky rondo finales. The two works by Hoffmeister have a bit more harmonic interest and rhythmic tension than the more aristocratic Stamitz piece, but the differences aren’t huge. Victoria Chiang plays with a big tone and lots of enthusiasm, and since she’s rather closely recorded it’s a good thing that her intonation is so accurate, even in double-stops. The Baltimore Chamber Orchestra is a modern-instrument group, which certainly isn’t a disadvantage. The playing is polished and always falls gratefully on the ear. In the first movements, I could imagine perhaps a bit more energy, but this is a very minor issue. Aside from the forward balance of the soloist (understandable in any work for viola and orchestra), the engineering is warm and natural. A very pleasant release.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2011

Franz Anton Hoffmeister was doing very nicely as a composer when he decided to enter the field of music publishing. That not only made him a wealthy man, but also gave him a channel to disseminate his own music internationally. The result was a composer who became prolific in his output, though why he composed the two viola concertos is unknown as such works would not enjoy a ready market at the time. Their date of composition is uncertain though the 1780’s seems likely and places them before the foundation of his publishing house. They are robust works employing the instrument to good effect, the frequent use of the lower register being a particularly pleasing aspect, while the lyric and flowing central movement of the D major is delightful. Outer movements offer an orchestral role of substance, with the Rondo finale to both concertos being bright and cheerful. Maybe the two works are too similar to be heard together—even the length of the movements are almost exactly the same—yet with Victoria Chiang’s dexterity, impeccable intonation and appealing tonal quality they do make for relaxing enjoyment. With Carl Stamitz the situation was very different, for as a performing musician highly regarded on both violin and viola, the dearth of concerto material available for the viola made his own scores very valuable to him. This first concerto was published in 1774, but it is likely he performed it the previous year. In every way it was comparable in style, content and quality with works composed by Mozart at that time, Chiang revelling in the moments of virtuosity. Stylish and well balanced support from the Baltimore players; exemplary programme notes from Allan Badley, and good sound engineering. Much recommended.

Brian Reinhart
MusicWeb International, April 2011

The main attraction here will be the fact that, in the classical era, the viola was not a frequently-used solo instrument. Until the twentieth century and composers like Bartók, Walton, Hindemith, Pettersson and Bloch, the viola concerto repertoire is remarkably thin: two concertos by Franz Hoffmeister and a series by Carl, Anton and Johann Stamitz from the classical period, Berlioz’s Harold in Italy, a nearly-forgotten concerto for viola and clarinet by Max Bruch, and two large-scale virtuoso works by York Bowen and Cecil Forsyth, played by Lawrence Power on a fascinating Hyperion CD.

The concertos themselves are elegant classical creations, worthy examples of the era of Mozart and Haydn without ever really challenging the ears, or the supremacy of that duo. The solo instrument is the primary appeal: Stamitz and Hoffmeister clearly have an affection for the viola and an understanding of what it can do as a soloist. The stereotype of the viola as a sad instrument fit for mourning or bitter emotional episodes, the way it was typecast by composers as different as Walton and Brahms, is not at all in evidence here: all three concertos are in major keys and all three demonstrate the instrument to be a versatile and interesting star.

Hoffmeister is especially free with his soloist: the viola gets an extended solo in the adagio of the concerto in D, and in the B flat adagio sings nearly from start to finish a melody which weaves up and down across the registers. There are challenging double-stops and good tunes in every movement. Stamitz, on the other hand, adds resonant clarinets to the wind section and seems, especially in the first movement and its epic cadenza, to be working on a slightly bigger scale than Hoffmeister’s serenade-like works. Strikingly, the Stamitz slow movement briefly features the soloist in duet with the orchestral viola section.

These are not period-instrument or particularly period-informed performances; they use tasteful vibrato and contemporary strings. The Baltimore Chamber Orchestra is up to all its demands, Markand Thakar is a steady hand at the helm, and Victoria Chiang, professor at Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory, makes for a superb soloist, with no second thoughts about what technical demands there are and with the richness of tone necessary to really “sell” the viola as solo instrument.

As a part of the Naxos Digital line, this album is currently only available for download at the website Classicsonline, where it sells for rather less than the price of a physical compact disc. Other download retailers, like eMusic and iTunes, stock it as well. Naxos informs me that a standard CD is scheduled for July 2011.

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