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Nalen Anthoni
Gramophone, November 2017

Three movements; strings, oboes and horns only—nevertheless, perceive a symphony in embryo. Atypically, though, the symphonies of Bohemia-born František Xaver Dušek didn’t reach a wide public. Allan Badley reckons certain patrons had restricted their distribution. This work, though modestly scored, is substantial in content, and the brass parts offer a reminder that the ancestor of Dušek’s first patron, Count Sporck, brought the horn to Bohemia in 1681. © 2017 Gramophone

Early Music Review, October 2013

If you are looking for enjoyable, little-known, well-played classical music, this could be precisely what you are looking for—high quality need not break the bank! © 2013 Early Music Review

Johan van Veen
musica Dei donum, April 2013

The Helsinki Baroque Orchestra delivers enthusiastic and energetic performances which are polished…they are full of contrasts and the idiosyncracies of the various symphonies are fully explored. Tempi and dynamics are well-judged.

This is a delightful disc which shows that Dussek’s music deserves to be performed. © 2013 musica Dei donum Read complete review

MusicWeb International, March 2013

Franz Xaver is known to have written in the order of forty symphonies, pace that review a healthy contribution to the 18th century literature. The four heard here, thought to be fairly early works, are not quite indispensable masterpieces, yet nor are they negligible or in any regard forgettable. In fact, they exhibit considerable craft, and within the well-defined stylistic boundaries of Galant, are as fresh and vivid as they are elegantly Viennese.

Thus, if this turns out to be the first volume of several from Naxos, so much the better, especially if performed by the talented, always enthusiastic Helsinki Baroque Orchestra under their artistic director, the young Finnish harpsichordist/conductor Aapo Häkkinen. An unusual but nice touch of his is the decision to direct from the vicinity of a fortepiano, used sparingly in the absence of a harpsichord continuo. © MusicWeb International Read complete review

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, January 2013

…I’ve had nothing but words of praise for Häkkinen…Performance and recording on the present disc are exemplary.

…these are agreeable, enjoyable works that make a valuable addition to the vast storehouse of early Classical symphonies. © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review

John Whitmore
MusicWeb International, November 2012

This recording of four of the Dussek Sinfonias further cements my thoughts from all those years ago in a very positive way. The music is a breath of fresh air and there’s hardly a dull moment to be heard in the 53 minutes worth of music on this CD. Dussek was a tunesmith. All four symphonies are crammed full of melodies but there’s more to it than that. The orchestration is the work of a true craftsman and the musical ideas are allowed to develop in a true symphonic sense.

The Helsinki Baroque Orchestra sounds much bigger than its role call of 18 players would suggest. The string sound is deep and rich and the forward recording captures the buzz of the cellos and the bright violin timbre that one has come to expect from an ensemble playing on period instruments. There’s real fire a sparkle to the playing. The horns…have tremendous bite and a delightful authentic ring to their tone.

There’s some fine musicianship on display here with a full range of dynamics. The quieter, slower passages ebb and flow. The phrasing is elastic and everything is allowed time to breathe. There is a tangible sense of communication taking place between the players…The louder passages are thrown off with great zest and bravura and it’s hard not be swept away with the sheer enthusiasm of it all. The allegros are immaculate in terms of precise articulation and intonation.

From the very first entry this Dussek disc grabs your attention. It’s rather special and at bargain price it needs to be snapped up. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Rob Haskins
American Record Guide, November 2012

The performances are fine…and the continuo player…is inventive and delightful to hear. Informative liner notes. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

David A. McConnell
MusicWeb International, October 2012

This was an enjoyable hour of listening, and I would be happy and surprised to hear any of these works in concert. I certainly enjoyed these performances…the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra’s playing is far more committed and polished. Allegros move along with plenty of fire and energy—cellos and bass really sustaining forward momentum with crisp articulation of their line—while the slow movements display the true sense of give and take that comes when players are genuinely listening to one another. The ensemble offers up some lovely rich timbres, especially because several of the movements feature divided violas. The final movements are taken at quite a pace, without ever sounding breathless, articulation always clear, and the hairpin dynamics wonderfully realized. These are players who enjoy and believe in the music, and that is the exact kind of advocacy this music deserves—and needs.

The Naxos engineers have captured the orchestra in sound that is a tad too bright and close; I would have appreciated a warmer, more resonant acoustic. Such an analytical recording would readily reveal any deficiencies in ensemble or intonation, but that is not an issue with these talented Finnish musicians. Yet it seems churlish to complain: here is music that is rarely heard, yet surely deserving of a larger audience, in first-rate performances featuring excellent energetic playing, all at budget price. CD collectors owe Allan Badley, his music publishing company Artaria—which produces new editions of most of the music recorded in this 18th Century Symphony series—and Naxos a large debt of gratitude for sharing this music with us. I eagerly anticipate the next release in this rewarding series. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Nalen Anthoni
Gramophone, October 2012

Small ensemble, 18-strong, big music-making; modest scoring—strings with pairs of oboes and horns—but a wide-ranging imagination from Franz Xaver Dussek (1731-99), all topped by wide-ranging musicianship from Aapo Häkkinen. Sensibly he adds a bassoon to reinforce the bass; and, unlike Helios 18 in Naxos’s first disc of Dussek symphonies, he avoids the mistake of including an obtrusive harpsichord continuo. Häkkinen directs from a fortepiano, appropriately so. He uses it to decorate lines and enhance tonal colour, eschewing the infuriating anachronism of emphasising harmonic rhythm.

Häkkinen…inspires his musicians into a softly atmospheric evocation of pastoral spaciousness interspersed with shadows of gentle agitation. Excellent. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

WETA, September 2012

The Helsinki Baroque Orchestra, which made its American debut at the Library of Congress in October 2010, is led by harpsichordist Aapo Häkkinen. © 2012 WETA Read complete article

David Hurwitz, July 2012

…cleverly scored, tuneful…

The performances by the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra under Häkkinen are what might be termed “generic period instrument,” but of high quality. The wind players—oboes, horns, and bassoon—have an attractive timbre and maintain good intonation throughout. The strings are typically dry and thin-toned, but rhythmically precise and alert…

Certainly the music is of fine enough quality that it should appeal to anyone who enjoys the products of the First Viennese School. And who doesn’t? Excellent sonics flatter the players, and the decision not to use an obtrusive harpsichord continuo was very smart…this is a very recommendable release. © 2012 Read complete review

Lisa Flynn
WFMT (Chicago), July 2012

Dussek’s symphonies from the 1760’s and 1770’s are works of great charm and vivacity, cleverly orchestrated and full of striking melodic ideas as this recording amply demonstrates. © 2012 WFMT (Chicago) Read complete review, July 2012

Themes are well chosen and adeptly developed; orchestration is nicely handled, more than adequately balanced and frequently clever…and the overall impression of all four works is of music partaking of the lighter side of Haydn or Dittersdorf. None of these pieces stands out for depth of expression or any particular intensity, although the four-movement sinfonia in B-flat is longer and somewhat more fully worked out than the three in three movements. There is considerable charm in this music, including the charm of rediscovering a skilled musical craftsman of Mozart’s time; and the very fine performances on this Naxos CD certainly give the music its full due. © 2012 Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2012

The absence of autographed scores and orchestral parts cast doubt on the extent of the orchestral output from the Bohemian-born composer, Franz Xaver Dussek. As Alan Badley, the musicologist of Artaria Editions, relates in his accompanying notes, attributing works to the large number of kapellmeisters working in the early 18th century is often an educated guess. Even when, as in the present case, a degree of provenance can be established, the problems faced in arriving at performing editions leaves many unanswered questions. Of Dussek’s life we know that his ability as a pianist, teacher and composer took him into the homes of the wealthy, while he and his celebrated soprano wife were to become so affluent that their home became a focal point for musicians. Much of his music was written to commissions, and may have been performed just the once, a fact reinforced by a lack of any mention of its existence in the catalogues of music publishing houses of the time. One score, however, carries the date of 1763, and that would link this group of works with a busy period in Dussek’s life. What we have are scores more of passing charm than musical substance, their short length never outstaying their welcome. He was seemingly most happy in fast movements where activity is the main ingredient, and where horns can add impact and vitality. Sample, for instance, the bubbling opening of the B flat major (track 4) to sample the disc in general. Played by the superb Helsinki Baroque Orchestra, the disc notes do not make clear whether they play Baroque instruments, though the sound they produce has that quality. Aapo Häkkinen’s urgent tempos and subtle changes of dynamics probably bring more to the music than Dussek would have enjoyed in his lifetime. Strongly commended in immaculate sound. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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