Gluck: The Symphonies / Gaigg, L'Orfeo Barockorchester

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"There’s some question as to whether or not all of these works are by Gluck, but it doesn’t matter. The music is unfailingly enjoyable, the performances vigorous and full of life...L’Orfeo plays on period instruments with results that are well above average. The winds, horns especially, are pretty terrific, and they have some impressive solo licks. The string ensemble is clean and the tone generally attractive...This is an important addition to the Gluck discography and definitely worth the collector’s attention."

-- David Hurwitz,, [May 9, 2011]

"None of these works is ground-breaking exactly - in fact they are utterly conservative! - but they are all clearly written by a man, probably still young, who knew what he was doing, and how to achieve his desired effects with considerable imagination and audience-pleasing brio. The Overtures in particular are easy-going, but peppered throughout the programme there is some lovely writing, especially for the horn pair and, from time to time, the oboes. The two works in D - both in two movements only, incidentally - are probably the most memorable, Chen D6 for its concertante interplay, Wq 165.2 for its catchy simplicity.

Under Gaigg's assured violin-in-hand guidance, the Baroque Orchestra's playing is Classical: refined and restrained, with attention to detail, yet still light and bright. Period instruments and techniques are used to authentic effect."

-- Byzantion, MusicWeb International

Certainly the most stylistically advanced of the lot, the G-Major Symphony, points strongly to the influence of Johann Stamitz’s later symphonies of the early 1750s: great rhythmic energy, strong textural contrasts, half-cadence substitutions, orchestral intensification of short motto themes upon their immediate restatement, frequent and distinctive use of specific wind colors, cantabile themes over bass ostinatos, and that desire to avoid the expected—whose most telling monument can be found in C. P. E. Bach’s quirky later symphonies. By way of greatest contrast, there’s a D-Major Symphony (Chen D2) whose first of two movements, a complex but gracious Andante with potential operatic origins, is purest galant, as though it had stepped out of a work by Brunetti or Boccherini. Regardless of which individual or group of composers is responsible for these works, they make for fascinating and uniformly pleasurable listening.

Some of that is due, of course, to Michi Gaigg and her 22-person L’Orfeo Baroque Orchestra. The tonal bite to the strings that was present in their recording of Rebel’s Les Élémens (Phoenix Edition 110) is not as prominent, but that’s to be expected, as the music is from a different culture and period. Consistent, however, is their concern with clean articulation, firm rhythms, and a focus on instrumental tone. They are all technically expert—notably so the two hornists, Thomas Fischer and Christoph Beham, featured in the wince-inducing difficulties of the D-Major (Chen D6) Symphony’s minuet finale.

The sound is close and distinct, with none of the rich acoustical reverberance that may be meant on occasion to hide a period ensemble’s anemic string tone, but instead ends up swamping textural and rhythmic clarity. In short, whether this is Gluck or not, it’s well worth the consideration of any listener who enjoys fine examples of the mid-Classical period symphonic oeuvre.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 777411-2

  • UPC: 761203741120

  • Label: CPO

  • Composer: Christoph W. Gluck

  • Conductor: Michi Gaigg

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: L'Orfeo Baroque Orchestra