In 1990 Decca/London issued a CD of orchestral works of Dutch composer Johann Wagenaar played by the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Chailly (425 833), a superb collection in which the Italian conductor honored one of the best-known Dutch composers by presenting five overtures, a symphonic poem (Saul and David), and a waltz cycle. Performances are superb, and from a sonic standpoint this is among the better Decca/London recordings in the famed Concertgebouw. Unfortunately this CD has been deleted. I looked forward to this new CD of Dutch overtures with the hope it might contain some neglected worthy music -- but overall it is disappointing. It is a mildly entertaining package of what apparently are premiere recordings of six overtures by Dutch composers of the nineteenth century including two by Wagenaar.. The current Schwann/Opus lists no recordings of music by any of the composers represented on the new issue.
Wagenaar (1862-1941) studied piano, violin and organ (he was known for his superb playing on the latter instrument), held important teaching positions in Holland and was director of the Royal Conservatory in the Hague for for almost two decades. He was the most prominent Dutch composer of the era writing music strongly influenced by Richard Strauss. He was championed by both Willem Mengelberg and Eduard van Beinum, the former recording Cyrano de Bergerac Overture in 1942 (available in a superb MOT transfer on Pearl GEM 0008); there also exists a live recordimg from 1940 of The Taming of the Shrew Overture. Van Beinum recorded the latter commercially with the Concertgebouw in 1943, not yet issued on CD. This new CD contains premiere recordings of two works. Frithjog's Meerfahrt was Wagenaar's first orchestral work, with the concert overture, Op. 11 written shortly thereafter. Neither suggest the imagination and inventive orchestration to be heard in his later music.
Of the two works by Johannes van Bree (1801-1857) by far the most interesting is the overture The Bandit written in 1835 for a highly successful opera that has now fallen into oblivion. It's a cheery short work of more interest than the concert overture written earlier, which begins in solemn fashion ending with a lively section, reminiscent of some overtures of Weber. Johannes Verhulst (1816-1891), a contemporary of van Bree, was a friend of Robert and Clara Schumann and his music was praised by Mendelssohn. The CD notes are correct in mentioning this music's similarities to works of both composers. Jan van Gilse (1881-1944) studied with the same teacher as Willem Mengelberg at the Cologne Conservatory, but little else is said about him in the CD notes. His Concert Overture in C minor has its dramatic moments but hardly suggests Beethoven's style as intimated by CD program notes.
Performances are from 1996/98 played by the fine moderate-size Netherlands Radio Orchestra conducted by Jac van Steen. They do what can be done for these rather prosaic scores. Radio studio sound is a bit on the dry side, but clear. It is admirable that these 19th century Dutch works have been recorded -- so listeners have the opportunity to know what the music; surely none of these scores will be of more than academic interest. Notes by Emanuel Overbeeke do not give enough information about the music -- although they include phonetic pronunciations of the composers' names in five languages: Dutch, English, French, German, and Spanish. Playing time of less than an hour does not add to attractiveness of this premium-priced disk.