A collective of some 30 young musicians from a dozen different, Europe-wide countries, the c/o chamber orchestra is a vibrant ensemble. Performing without conductor, the group presents four examples of a form which, while broadly characterised as "light," offers a wide diversity of expression: the Divertissement, or Divertimento.
The nema of the group comes from the abbreviation for "care of" (c/o) - in the sense that a composer pens the score and that is transmitted to the listener "care of" performers.
We begin with music by Jaques Ibert (1892-1962), a much under-rated French composer;his orchestral work Escales is well worth seeking out (I've linked a Naxos performance in the Amazon section below). Just listen to the lightness of the fourth movement Valse of his 1910 Diverissement, and Ibert's characteristic French harmonic language in this delightful performance:
There are high-jinks galore here. The galloping finale is positively outrageous, in fact:
Composed some 40 years previously, Émile Bernard's Divertissement for double wind quintet, Op. 26 (1894) is ambitious in scope - some 20 minutes in total, and starting with a symphincally-constructed first movement that for all of its joviality has an underlying rigour:
Occasionally, a sort of Frenchified Siegfried-Idyll came to mind when listening to this: the performance offers the same sort of open-air joy inherent in Wagner's piece. The finale is full of quicksilver gestures (the c/o winds are a continual source of delight!):
One of the most famous divertimentos of all is that by Bartók (Sz 113). It is given a performance full of energy - the c/o chamber orchestra relishes Bartók's scrunchy dissonances; the recording feels just a touch over-reverberent here though. Here's the first movement:
The slow central movcement is given a powerful performance of remarkable power; one really feels the intensity of Bartók's harmonies:
What really elevates this disc is a piece written especially for this project by American composer Michael Ippolito (born 1985). While the Bernard and the Bartók isolated winds and strings respectively, Ippolito's piece brings them back together. Ippolito also provides superb liner notes for the entire disc. In doing so, he is able to elucidate how his work shares traits with its bedfellows, perhaps most poignantly in that, like Bartók, he also takes refuge "in composing a work of abstract, light-hearted music at a time when the world seems teetering on the brink of disaster". Ippolito says it is the "contrast-rich nature of the divertimento" that drew him to the genre, and he absolutely nails not only a sense of freedom but a sense of play too - frequently between opposites, as in the finale when a wind chorale is heard against a gigue in the strings:
I have only come across one piece of Ippolito before and I was fascinated by it: The Distance of the Moon on a piano disc entitled MAXIMUM/MINIMUM/MODERN performed by Sung-Soo Cho on the Albany label (link below); the piece has a rather fun, zany program and was a delight. That piece was actually written in the same year as Oppolito's Divertimento
This disc acts as a nice next step from Presteigne Premieres, for example, which included Hugh Wood's Divertimento; or perhaps Linus Roth and José Gallardo's disc Virtuoso Dances which inclyded the Divertimento from Stravinsky's Fairy's Kiss.
Beautifully recorded, this is a treasure trove of chamber music.