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CD Review: Hoffmeister and Stamitz Viola Concertos

Victoria Chiang, viola; Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, Markand Thakar, cond. (Naxos)

Viola Concertos  Victoria Chiang, viola; Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, Markand Thakar, cond. (Naxos)

I’ve long been a fan of Victoria Chiang. As a violist, it’s hard to find good role models—they’re few and far between, especially when it comes to 18th-century repertoire. As the CD notes state, “Concertos of the viola are among the most rare of all 18th-centrury works.” But Chiang has long been known as the great communicator when it comes to this instrument. She pulls a rich and dynamic sound out of the viola, something that commands both attention and respect.

In her recording of Carl Philipp Stamitz’s Viola Concerto No. 1 in D major; and Franz Anton Hoffmeister’s Viola Concerto in D major, and Viola Concerto in Bb major (both with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Markand Thakar), she channels something extra special—her powerful sound is explosive. With the deft Baltimore orchestra at her back, Chiang stands at attention, creating a virtuosic wall of sound. It is hard not to hold your breath as she executes the amazing runs penned by Stamitz.

Hoffmeister’s Viola Concerto in D and Concerto in Bb are both a bit of a mystery. Little is known of their origins, and it’s been speculated that they may have been commissioned (neither was published and the manuscript copies were discovered in tattered shape).

But what is known of these two pieces is that they expertly exploit the wide register that is so singular to the viola.

*This article appeared in Strings March 2012
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