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  41:3 (01-02 /2018)
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Reviewer: Bertil van Boer

A couple of years ago I reviewed the last three of the ZWV 181 Trio Sonatas (37:6) with the hope that the Pasticcio Barocco would soon release the second installment of Nos. 1–3. Here at last, almost three years later, this has come to pass, though with a rather strange caveat; this disc incorporates only the first two sonatas. The Third has been omitted due to the “complex textual problems” noted by the performers, and because it specifies the use of a violin instead of the two rather more generic melody instruments of the others. I am not entirely convinced that the “omission” of a basso continuo of this work is problematic, given that it would have simply been improvised from the bassoon part, even if Zelenka didn’t get around to figuring the bass. Still, it does provide a continuity with the first disc, so that one has an almost complete set.

The works date from around 1722, and in his traditional fashion, they are well-conceived, with a good sense of energy. This is particularly notable in the faster sections, such as the tumbling lines of the first Allegro of the Second Sonata. But there is depth too, such as the slightly melancholic Larghetto of the first, in which the lines move seamlessly between major and minor modes, with the suspensions particularly insistent. The final movement of the Second Sonata is almost a dialogue between the two soloists, with the bassoon acting as a continual referee beneath. It is clear that the music is focused and well-integrated. Given the shortness (and omission noted above), the performers have had to fill out the disc with a couple of other Zelenka works—in this case, the symphony for eight solo parts, ZWV 189, which is a rather unique compendium of movements. The “sinfonia” twirls about in a lively manner, but the mood is far from the opera overture that it might seem, with insistent interludes of unison and Vivaldian solo parts in the violin. The jocular gavotte third movement inserts a bit of French style, while the fourth movement is a particularly pensive duet for cello and bassoon. The Hipocondrie, ZWV 187, is a composition in a single movement that was hastily written in 1723. The booklet notes seem to equate it with the wedding festivities of the Imperial family, but it seems that it may have had a more mundane purpose. The work is decidedly French in style, with a full slow opening and a rollicking central section with some rather nice counterpoint. I would suspect that the title is more than a little tongue-in-cheek, but the sliding of the harmony at points makes it slightly schizophrenic.

As with the first set, the performance of these works is excellent. Given that all are available in other sets, the nice interpretation and well-constructed phrasing makes this stand out. This is a set that I would not hesitate to include in my collection. While it may not be the last word in Zelenka’s sonatas, and although it omits one of the set, it nonetheless provides a balanced performance that supports the notion that Zelenka’s rediscovery over the past two decades is well worth it.

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