DOPPER:  Symphony No. 2 in B Minor.  Pân I.  Pân II.
Residentie Orchestra The Hague/Matthias Bamert, cond.

CHANDOS 9884 (F) (DDD) TT:  65:08

This CD is the third in a series (the first was devoted to music of Rijk Hol (Chandos 9796 ), the second to works of Alexander Voormolen (Chan 9815) all played by the Hague Residency Orchestra conducted by Matthias Bamert.  It seems this orchestra is in the process of "rediscovering"  music of neglected Dutch composers; they already have recorded two box sets traversing 400 years of Dutch music for distribution to public radio stations.  It seems rather odd to suggest orchestral music by Dutch composers has been neglected in Holland -- both Eduard van Beinum and Bernard Haitink promoted it extensively with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. The booklet accompanying the Q Disc 14-CD set of live Concertgebouw recordings with Haitink states from 1957-1988 Haitink conducted more than fifty premieres of Dutch works, including twenty world premieres, as well as numerous other works by Dutch composers that had already been played pre-Haitink.   

Cornelius Dopper (1870 - 1939) is best known to record collectors from the Mengelberg recording of his Gothic Chaconne (See review of Mengelberg's recording, and a review of a recent Dutch recording).  It is said that January 24, 1918 after a performance of Dopper's Zuiderzee Symphony Dutch critic and fellow composer Matthijs Vermeulen yelled at the top of his voice, "Long live Sousa!" Since that time Dopper's music has had the reputation of being even less interesting than Sousa's marches (but then that also applies to much other music!).  However, Mengelberg, Richard Strauss, Karl Muck and Pierre Monteux thought highly of Dopper's music and conducted it often. Dopper's musical life began as a violinist after which he was associate conductor at the Netherlands Opera. In 1906 he left for the United States where for two years he was conductor of Henry W. Savage's Opera Company where his most important activity was conducting the American premiere of Puccini's Madama Butterfly.  After returning to Holland he conducted his Symphony No. 3 with the Concertgebouw and was appointed second conductor of the orchestra holding this position until 1931.  During that time Dopper conducted Dutch premieres of  Debussy's La mer (1910), Ravel's Rapsodie espagnole (1910) and Mother Goose (1914), Symphony No. 2 of Sibelius (1910), Reger's Piano Concerto (1916) and de Falla's El Amor Brujo (1927). He also initiated a series of children's concerts.

Dopper's first major works date from the early 1890s, a period that produced the opera The Blind Girl from Castel Cuill, the first version of "Rembrandt" Symphony and the opera Frithjof.  Shortly afterwards he wrote two more operas, William Ratcliff and The Cross of Honour.  He also composed seven symphonies, the first in 1896, the last (Zuiderzee) in 1917 (for a review click here).

All three works on this CD receive their premiere recordings. Symphony 2 is overly long (43:22) for its content, in four movements the second of which is a lively Allegro vivace. CD notes relate it to Beethoven's Pastorale; it suffers much from the comparison. Of more interest are the two Pân or "symphonic studies, the first of which is heroic in nature, the second somber and tragic. Collectors should welcome this opportunity to hear lesser-known Dutch works -- at least we know what they sound like -- and realize there are no unjustly neglected treasures here.  Performances are very fine, the Chandos sound of their usual high standard.

R.E.B. (May 2001)