Johann Friedrich Fasch was roughly contemporaneous with Johann Sebastian Bach. This recording features several works by the composer, including his D-major trumpet concerto, C-minor bassoon concerto with oboes, the G-minor oboe concerto, and (conveniently) a French overture for all those wind instruments and strings.
The recording also features a Concerto in E for trumpet, oboe d’amore, strings and continuo by Carl Friederich Christian Fasch, who was born in 1736.
Daddy Fasch traveled well, it seems, across modern Germany, rubbing elbows with all the right crowd, including Heinichen, Bach, Telemann, Pisendel, etc. He was a respected composer. His concerts on this recording by the Zefiro Baroque Orchestra are in a Vivaldian 3-movement form, but are progressive. The use of winds in the orchestra (and not at the soloist’s desk) is unusual, as are moments of rich harmony.
First, Fasch the son’s concerto opens in the style of perhaps Haydn. Zefiro is known for their winds, but the string ensemble here is very nice. The entrance of the winds is ceremonial, it seems, with high clarino offering us the air of aristocracy. The combination of instruments, admittedly, are a little strange. The high trumpet and oboe together might sound like a Bach Brandenburg Concerto but it’s frankly odd, and has to be tough to pull off in-tune, with the two wind instruments playing in duet quite a bit. The solo parts take on a more baroque flavor in their interplay, eschewing the more galante ritornello.
It’s a bizarre little treat, reminding me somewhat of the music of Zelenka. Zelenka’s works for oboes en trio aren’t of the same early classical stock, but composer Jan would take us into some strange places, wouldn’t he? So does Fasch’s son.
You’re going to enjoy the other concertos and the suite by daddy better.
The opening trumpet concerto also takes on the air of the aristocracy with that trumpet blaring above strings, but it sounds effortless and sublime too. There’s so much polish on the trumpet and the ensemble sound that you know just seconds-in on this recording that “yes, it’s that same Zefiro, that we trust and love.” The concerto is easy listening, with a flavor of Italian meets J.J. Mouret. The second movement is short; the third seems almost obligatory, but is short.
On the heel of reviewing Vivaldi bassoon concertos, we’re treated next to another bassoon concerto, with one of the estimable Grazzi brothers. While some might confuse an Albinoni concerto with Vivaldi, there’s no mistaking Faschian concertos with real Italian concertos. He’s got his own style, which I dare say is a little more forward looking than Vivaldi’s concertos sound. It’s not quite into the Haydn sound world of his son’s concerto, but his use of longer phrases for the soloist that seem all the more melodic, are kind of fresh.
As ever, the string playing is very supporting even lush in texture.
Conductor Alfredo Bernardini takes the solo desk in the oboe concerto. The use of organ for continuo sets the mood with darkness, but Fasch’s light wit never weighs down the work in too much seriousness. Like the concerto for bassoon, he’ll take the solo phrases a little longer. And the results, for what it’s worth, are less formulaic. Again, fresh air. If we were to mix a nice “playlist” with one of these combined with a few by Vivaldi and maybe another by Telemann, we’d have a real international affair, and Fasch would be squarely in the middle of those styles.
Telemann is often easily viewed via Polish and French glasses. That’s my segue into the Fasch overture featuring trumpet. Zefiro pours on the elegance even a smidgeon of pomp for the opening slow section. In the faster section, the oboes take on a more melodic role, with the trumpet adding percussive additions and riding along with the violins in sections, too. This again is inventive, fresh writing.
Other dances follow, none of which especially remarkable. This is where I wish Fasch, the elder, were not always so fresh and light in style. There’s potential for more gravitas, I am sure, someplace. Despite lack of profundity in the rest of the overture-suite, be rest assured that Zefiro treats each number with equal care and a same effortless, polished sound.
The last Zefiro disc I acquired featured the Water music of Telemann and Handel. I loved it, especially since the pieces were familiar favorites. Fasch’s music is not so familiar to me. But it’s a real lesson in history that’s played without flaw. Neither Fasch’s art has lasted the test of time to be admired in the same light as Bach or Telemann. Yet, if these pieces fulfill their role for us, we get to see he was an admirable practitioner of good taste who likely drew admiration for his forward-facing style. And many of his good traits were passed to his son. It’s not unlike the dynasty we’re more familiar with, between Sebastian and his son Carl Phillip Emanuel.