Students of music’s Classical period are familiar with the name of Florian Leopold Gassmann, though few, it’s safe to say, have ever actually heard his music. It was the Bohemian-born, Italian-trained Gassmann (1729-74) who brought Salieri to Vienna, founded the Tonkünstler Society (the Austrian capital’s oldest concert-giving organization), and rose to become Court Kapellmeister in 1772. His time at the top of Viennese musical life was cut short by a fatal fall from a carriage. He made his name as an opera composer in Italy, and from 1764 his works held the stage in Vienna alongside those of Gluck, Sacchini, Piccinni, and a certain W.A. Mozart, whose Bastien und Bastienne brought its 12-year-old composer modest applause in 1768, a year after Gassmann’s most successful opera, L’amore artigiano, was premiered at the Burgtheater.
With this disc the delights of Gassmann’s music are recovered for a new audience. The overtures to ten of his comic operas are here, all shortish, three- movement (fast-slow-fast) curtain raisers in the style of the Italian sinfonia. The readings—from the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, playing modern instruments and directed by Sylvia Alimena—are lively and polished. The recording offers satisfactory detail in a spacious ambience, much as one might have heard midway back in a large 18th-century hall.