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Four composers roughly contemporary with one another, all writing estimable music which is now largely forgotten. Indeed Leopold Mozart is generally known only as the father of Wolfgang; Michael Haydn is simply the brother of the great Josef and Albrechtsberger's fame resides on being the teacher of Beethoven. Yet before the birth of his prodigious offspring, Leopold Mozart was already building a career as a composer of distinction, and had published one of the most learned books on violin playing and technique. But in 1760 at the age of 41 he ended his career to concentrate on the well-being of his famous son.
Michael Haydn was to follow in his older brother's footsteps, though by the time he arrived Joseph had stolen the limelight. Yet among his pupils we find no less than Weber, and his brother esteemed his sacred works above his own. Even then Michael felt he was the shadow of his brother, and rarely journeyed outside Salzburg. His output, nevertheless, contained almost 400 sacred works.
Johann Georg Albrechtsberger was born near Vienna, and had a distinguished career centred on church music. He was recommended by Wolfgang Mozart to the post of assistant to Leopold Hoffmann at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, and on Hoffmann's death became the Kapellmeister, the highest church rank in the Austrian empire. He is credited as having composed over 700 works.
With Georg Christoph Wagenseil we come full circle in this quartet of composers, for Wagenseil was responsible for teaching Leopold Hoffmann, and it was one of his keyboard concertos that the young Mozart performed to win the favour of his patron, Maria Thereisa. Though now almost totally forgotten, Wagenseil held that important post of composer to the Royal Court in Vienna between 1739 and his death in 1779. His range was vast and included a large number of operas, a massive number of choral works, symphonies and concertos. He was also famed as a keyboard virtuoso, and a brilliant church organist.
Wagenseil composed concertos for just about every instrument that existed in the 18th century. His harpsichord concertos became the best known, though a cello concerto is said to be particularly fine. His trombone concerto, which probably came late in his life, is in two contrasting movements - slow and fast, the soloist supported by a discreet accompaniment for chamber orchestra.
Albrechtsberger was even more prolific, including a concerto for jew's harp. The trombone concerto is a modern recreation of a work from 1769. It has three movements, the central one being a long and song-like Andante, while the finale bristles with virtuosity.
The work by Haydn is an adaptation of a concerto for a brass instrument dating from the 1760's and probably intended for trumpet. That is also the time that Mozart was composing a work in the form of a Serenade, and it is from that score the three movements are extracted to form this concerto, the second movement a somewhat incongruous minuet.
Alain Trudel is the virtuoso Canadian trombone exponent. After playing in a number of their major orchestras, Trudel has built a career as one of the finest brass soloists, appearing with many of the major ensembles in North America.
The Northern Sinfonia is based in Newcastle and is the major chamber orchestra in the North of England. In the year 2001 it will be the proud occupant of a new concert hall being built for them. Their concerts mainly serve the north east of England, and with a core of around 50 musicians it can act as a chamber or, slightly augmented, as a symphony orchestra. They already have a vast catalogue of records, and over a three year period recorded eighteen discs for Naxos.
The orchestra was also directed by Trudel.