Composers: Mozart, Abel, Zelter et al
Performers: Gudrun Sidonie Otto s, New Dutch Academy/Simon Murphy
Catalogue Number: Pentatone PTC5186787

The packaging’s retro vibe – make sure you watch the trailer on YouTube! – is not the least attraction of this latest recording from New Dutch Academy and its Sydney-born director, Simon Murphy. But the 18th-century repertoire here is retro by default. Not so the stylish performances, which evince a 21st-century approach to historical performance practice that is compelling in itself.

Jet Set! is the follow up to NDA’s previous recording Grand Tour: Baroque Road Trip. As Murphy’s booklet note explains, Jet Set! “explores the next musical generation, highlighting the enormous richness, variety and diversity of musical styles, personalities, dialects and movements within the Classical period. In particular, the album savours the delicacy and eloquence of galant, rococo and pre-Romantic influences with a highly personal and immersive soundscape to match.” It’s a fun concept, emphasising the cosmopolitan nature of a Classical composers’ influences, engagements and travels. But the music – much of it little known outside specialist circles – is terrific.

Amazingly, one of the strongest works here – well, certainly its first movement, which is just sooo good – receives its world premiere recording: Carl Friedrich Abel’s Symphony in C, Op. 14/1. I really cannot get enough of Abel’s music (as it turns out, he’s Murphy’s favourite composer – when he mentions Abel’s “painfully beautiful turn of phrase,” you know just what he means).

Carl Friedrich Zelter’s Viola Concerto in E Flat – with Murphy as soloist – makes for a terrific opening, though here again the first movement carries the burden of the concerto’s greatness. There is also a symphony by Johann Friedrich Reichardt; another by Abel; and a delightful selection of opera arias by Mozart, Storace and Paisiello, sung with the requisite grace and polite expression by soprano Gudrun Sidonie Otto.

Murphy’s highly diverting booklet notes are yet one more reason to acquaint yourself with this imaginatively conceived and beautifully executed project.

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