Giovanni Giornovich: London concertos (Delphian)
At first hearing, these three violin concertos dated 1790 sound like Haydn. The second of them could even be Mozart if we didn’t know that Mozart only wrote five concertos and these are numbered 13 to 15. So who was Giornovich if he could write so well, and why have we never heard this music before, given that this is a world premiere recording? Giornovich was, if nothing else, well-connected.
A Croat whose name has at least 30 misspellings, he was raised in Palermo and became a French citizen because it was the best passport to hold in those Brexit days. In 1791 he was among the musicians who welcomed Joseph Haydn to London and played in his orchestra. It must have seemed like a good time to write music that sounded like Haydn and Giornovich was not short of publishers — Longman, Clementi and Dussek among others. Reviews suggest that he was not taken altogether seriously by the cultured public and he left to settle in St Petersburg, where he died in 1804, aged 57.
The concertos begin in melodic, varied and sprightly fashion, losing some of their traction when the repeat comes round and Gornovich has nothing to add. His middles are more amoroso than adagio and the discriminating brain is not always bothered by how the thing is going to end. Nonetheless, it is utterly appealing, almost Haydn, the kind of thing Classic FM could play all night long.
The baroque violinist Bojan Čičić gives it his all and the Illyria Consort sound a pretty good band. It’s perfect fodder for a supper quiz. Bet they all say it’s Haydn.