THIRTY OR 40 years ago it was determined that the six "concerti armonici" (more often called concertini) so long attributed to Pergolesi could not have been written by him. There were various conjectural attributions to such Pergolesi contemporaries as Ricciotti, Chelleri and Birkenstock, but last year Albert Dunning pinned down a Dutch amateur musician, Unico Wilhelm, count of Wassenaer, as the true author of these works, and last summer Philips issued the first recording of them under Wassenaer's name (played by I Musici in a two-disc set 6768.163). Discovery of Wassenaer's authorship seems to have stimulated interest in the music, for now there are two more recordings of the six concertos.
When the Philips set was introduced last July, it was noted here that all six concertos are performed on a single disc by the Paillard Chamber Orchestra (MHS 3940, labeled Ricciotti), and that the two violin concertos on Side 4 of the Philips release are not only of questionable authorship but also of hardly indispensable quality.
The new recording of the "concerti armonici" by Thomas Fueri and his Camerata Bern, in DG's Archiv series, also fits on a single disc (2533.456; cassette 3310.456), and it is the most appealing presentation of this music to date. The Swiss performances are at least as stylish and enlivening as I Musici's, and the sound, far less reverberant than on Philips, is more in character with the lean and clean writing and playing. Glancing touches of color--such as the viola afterthoughts in the first Allegro of Concerto No. 1, which another composer might have assigned to a pair of horns--are incomparably effective here, without artificial spotlighting. Also, the DG recording costs just half the price of the Philips set and is less than half as bulky. In every respect, this is a winner.
Economical in a different sense is the new Vox Box on whose three discs Joerg Faerber conducts his Wu rttemberg Chamber orchestra in the six "concerti armonici" (here spread over three sides), the two violin concertos included in the Philips set, and three additional works: the Sinfonia in F major for cello and strings (one of the few examples of authentic Pergolesi instrumental music, and the source of the famous "Vivo" in Stravinsky's "Pulcinella") and the two flute concertos (in G and D), now attributed simply to "Anon." Georg Egger is the solo violinist, Michael Flaksman the cellist and Robert Dohn the flutist (SVBX-5154; cassettes CBX-5154).
Since the list price of the Vox Box is only $3 more than the $10.98 list for a single DG or Philips disc, this is quite a good buy. Faerber has always been a dependable performer, and his group is on its toes in this well-recorded set. However, most collectors interested in the flute concertos will want them played by Rampal; and the Sinfonia receives a more fetching performance by Saarbruecken associates of the late Karl Ristenpart (on Nonesuch H-71119). The two other items are as negligible here as in the Philips set. The new Archiv disc, then, may be just as good a buy, after all, and there is no getting around its overall musical and sonic superiority.
At last we have some new recordings by the Panocha Quartet, the brilliant young Czech ensemble that has been represented on only two previous discs. Why so splendid a group has not been more sought after is a puzzlement, to say the least, and the more so in the face of its stunning accounts of such widely contrasting works as the Quartets Nos. 5 and 7 of Bohuslav Martinu (on Supraphon 1111.2675G) and two of Mozart's finest quartets, K. 458 in B-flat (the "Hunt") and K. 575 in D (on Denon digital OF-7004-ND).
The powerful Martinu quartets are extremely worthwhile discoveries, and could not receive more effective advocacy. One hopes now for this composer's other five quartets from the same source. The Mozart works, too, are presented with consummate understanding and polish; the performances are the equal of any heretofore recorded, and the sound is exceptionally lifelike. Serious Mozartians will have to have this, regardless of duplication.