The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Ulrich Grehling (violin) Ulrich Koch (viola) Zoltan Ròcz (cello) Cappella Coloniensis/Günther Wich, Marcel Couraud*
Composer: Stamitz

The 18th-century Mannheim bigwig Carl Stamitz certainly produced well-crafted and pleasantly melodious music, but on the evidence of this disc offers very little that really sticks in the memory. The one exception, perhaps, is the charming and catchy Rondeau finale of the Sinfonia concertante for violin and viola which is beautifully shaped by Ulrich Grehling and Ulrich Koch. The other two movements in this work are more routine, though Grehling and Koch do their best to create a real sense of interaction between the two solo parts.

As with much of Stamitz’s output, the two cello concertos appear to have been composed as background music and were specifically designed not to draw too much attention to themselves. I found the melodic invention in no.1 slightly fresher than in its successor, though neither is in the same league as the early Haydn C major. Still, Zoltan Ròcz offers very stylish and musical interpretations. He produces a highly expressive tone in the two slow-movement romances, although some of the cadenzas seem unduly discursive and unnecessarily ornate. The period-instrument group Cappella Coloniensis provides neat and incisive accompaniments throughout, but the radio recordings, made between 1958 and 1975, are slightly unfocused.

Joanne Talbot