“The term "Sturm und Drang" originated in the world of drama, not music, but conductor Ian Page and his group the Mozartists here make a convincing case for the musical aspects of the phenomenon having come first, even if the style did not yet have a name. The works here were all composed well before the plays to which the descriptor has been applied. This is the first in a projected seven-volume series from Page, and he takes a similar approach to that in his "Mozart 250" series, which featured performances of music close to 250 years from the date it first appeared: here all of the music is from the 1760s. This is valuable, for the pre-Classical era, no less than our own, was subject to trends, and in the present works, one can almost feel the style sweep across the minds of composers with very different preoccupations. Page and the Mozartists open with the final scene from Gluck's underrated and influential Don Juan. Then, after descending into hell, listeners get a rather eerie ascent to the heights in Niccolò Jommelli's "Ombre che tacite qui sede," from the opera Fetonte: the first of the obscurities of which the volumes to come promise many. Another is the Tommaso Traetta opera Sofonisba, represented by two excerpts. Soprano Chiara Skerath here is not spectacular but probably sounds much like the singers who first performed these works. The first comic treatment of the Sturm und Drang style (sounds oxymoronic, but listen) is here in an excerpt from Haydn's first surviving opera, La Canterina. The main attractions are a pair of symphonies that fall more conventionally into the stormy, irregular patterns generally denoted by the Sturm und Drang moniker; Page's intent seems to be to depict it as a broader phenomenon, and he succeeds even if one might find more dramatically shaped performances of the Haydn Symphony No. 49 in F minor, Hob. 1/49 ("La Passione"). The Symphony in G minor, Op. 3, No. 3, of composer Franz Ignaz Beck is a tumultuous but sometimes humorous work that is well worth pulling off the historical scrap heap. A complaint here is the St. John's Smith Square sound, which is wrong, especially for the operatic selections. One's attention is whetted, however, for future volumes in the series.”
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