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James H. North
Fanfare, July 2009

Leitner’s “Oxford” is bright and energetic, with natural horns dominating the tutti…[In the cantatas]  Schmiege displays a beautiful voice and maintains a fairly low voltage emotional level, in deference to the 18th century. But Berenice is seriously contemplating suicide, so hysterics are perfectly appropriate, even in the Age of Reason…The text of Miseri noi is less personal but no less dramatic: the singer is contemplating the demise of her nation rather than that of her lover and of herself. Again, beauty of sound trumps intensity.

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, July 2009

This new edition of re-releases by the Cappella Coloniensis orchestra under various conductors, recording in the late 1980s, is indeed a welcome reintroduction to a splendid historically informed orchestra that had an enormous impact on the musical scene in Germany. Relistening to them will show that they were much closer in tone and balance to the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields than to Harnoncourt’s gritty-sounding Concentus Musicus Wien or Hogwood’s Academy of Ancient Music. Individual tastes may vary, of course, but I generally prefer and enjoy this kind of sound. Of course, their early years were scrappy sounding, as recordings from the 1950s will attest, but by the time of these discs they had evolved into an ensemble as highly polished as Roger Norrington’s London Classical Players.

The orchestra is happily joined in the cantatas by the splendid mezzo Marilyn Schmiege, whose voice is somewhat astringent and not always beautiful but whose style exemplifies the true art of 18th-century bel canto. She is lyrical, pensive, biting, sarcastic, and dramatic by turn, all conveyed by the varied coloration of her voice and her piquant use of rhythm. Listen to the way she sings her florid passages, for example: not for her the smooth, evenly produced tones of most Baroque sopranos, but a rhythmically accented way of “pouncing” on the notes like a cat worrying its prey. She creates tension and release in an almost magical unraveling of phrases, where the musical and dramatic progression of the cantatas is spooled out like a bolt of velvet cloth interlaced with steel wool…It’s a shame that many music-lovers nowadays have rather forgotten Ferdinand Leitner, one of those bold pioneers like Møgens Wöldike, Karl Ristenpart, Thurston Dart, and Helmuth Rilling—all different ages but all active in the 1950s—upon whose stubborn, individualistic shoulders our entire historically informed performance practice is based. Curiously, in fact, Leitner’s interpretation of the “Oxford” Symphony is more modern in concept than the recorded performances of Dorati or Fischer. It could not really be called a featureless performance, it certainly has drama and excellent dynamic contrasts, but it is certainly straightforward. I enjoyed it very much on its own terms…Highly recommended nonetheless.

Paul Turok
Turok’s Choice, June 2009

Baroque Flute Concertos – Frederick II (King of Prussia) / Telemann / Fasch (Holler, Hunteler, Huntgeburth)

Heinichen / Graupner / Fasch / Graun: Overtures (Linde)

Orchestral Music - Gossec / Vanhal / Mahaut / Kraus (Classical Symphonies) (Cappella Coloniensis, Linde)

Cherubini: Chant sur la mort de Joseph Haydn / Symphony (Cappella

Haydn: Soprano Cantatas - Berenice, che fai / Miseri noi / Violin Concerto No. 4 / Symphony No. 92 (Schmiege, Seifert, Cappella Coloniensis)

Stamitz: Concerto for 2 Clarinets No. 4 / Orchestral Quartet in G major / Stamitz: Clarinet Concerto in B flat major (Deinzer)

WDR broadcasts from Cologne offer wonderful performances by Cappella Coloniensis, of clarinet concertos by Carl and Johann Stamitz (Phoenix177) Cherubini’s Chant sur la mort de Joseph Haydn, beautifully sung by Marilyn Schmiege, Martyn Hill and Paolo Barbacini and Symphony in D Major (Phoenix175), symphonies by Gossec, Vanhal, Mahaut and Kraus (Phoenix174), flute concertos by Frederick the Great, Telemann and Fasch (Phoenix172), overtures by Heinchen, Graupner (with prominent use of a pair of clarinets), Fasch and Graun (noticeably old fashioned) (Phoenix173), and a Haydn disc featuring several cantatas, well sung by Schmiege, the Fourth Violin Concerto, well played by Ingrid Siefert and the Symphony No.92 (Phoenix176). All these discs are worthwhile, but the symphonies, Haydn and Cherubini discs are essential.

John W Barker
American Record Guide, May 2009

In the symphony, Leitner gives a more relaxed, genial, and understated “take” on the work than most recordings do—and there are many of them, of course. Hardly a major work, the Violin Concerto is given a sweet, engaging rendition by Seifert (the ensemble’s regular leader) with Linde. This work is a bit of a rarity. The term “cantata” has various application to the two works here. Miseri Noi, Misera Patria, consisting only of a recitative and aria, really belongs to the category of “insertion” or “concert” arias commonly composed in the 18th Century. This one may have been composed for Nancy Storace. The Scena di Berenice, on the other hand, is a pair of alternated recitatives and arias composed in London for a popular soprano of the day, Brigida Banti—whose singing of it Haydn did not like. Schmiege gives very solid and satisfying performances…This is a pleasant program, worth the attention of Haydn collectors. Texts with translations.

Brian Wilson
MusicWeb International, May 2009

If memory serves correctly, I hadn’t encountered Marilyn Schmiege before. She has an attractive voice and her performance of the two cantatas is enjoyable. If she sounds a little squally at times in the Scena di Berenice, that’s totally in character for the protagonist of the piece. The two vocal works together take up less than one third of the CD, so it seems odd to make Joseph Haydn Cantatas the large-print title of the whole programme. I’m not even sure how correct it is to label the first work a cantata, when it is properly described as a scena.

Ingrid Seifert’s credentials as a historically aware performer are, of course, well established, since she was the founder of London Baroque. Her performance of Violin Concerto No.4 is an attractive one and she is ably partnered by Linde and the Cappella…Ferdinand Leitner is best known as the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic for DG’s classic stereo remakes of Wilhelm Kempff’s Beethoven Piano Concertos. He also made a number of Haydn and Mozart recordings for DG, none of which is currently available. I recall these as being old-school performances, albeit of the sensitive Karl Böhm or Eugen Jochum variety rather than in overblown big-band style.

If I’d heard this performance of the ‘Oxford’ Symphony when it was recorded in 1987, I’d probably have thought it delicate but not fragile, and sensitive to the spirit of the music; it still sounds like a happy compromise between the ‘traditional’ and the ‘authentic’…Perhaps it would be more appropriate to compare Leitner’s performance with the well-received Naxos recording (8.550387, Capella Istropolitana/Barry Wordsworth) where the size of the ensemble and the performances themselves are similar, with almost identical tempi. In the slow movement Leitner is a little faster than Wordsworth, though not to the extent that I felt that his performance sounded unfeeling—just the opposite, in fact. I expected to find Leitner’s ‘Oxford’ Symphony old-fashioned but ended by enjoying it.

Choice of couplings may resolve the choice. With Wordsworth you also get enjoyable performances of Symphonies Nos. 85 (La Reine) from the Paris set and No. 103 (Drumroll) from the second London series, not the most logical coupling but, perhaps, preferable to the omnium gatherum on Phoenix.

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