VOGLER: Ballet Suite No. 1. Overture to the opera Athalie.Overture to
the play Hamlet. Overture to the singspiel Erwin und Elmire. Symphony in
D minor. Symphony in G.
NICOLAI: Kirchliche Fest-Overtüre, Op. 31.Variations brillantes for
Clarinet and Orchestra, Op. 26. Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor Overture.
Die Helmkehr des Verbannten Overture. Weihnachts Ouvertüre.
GUNNING: Symphony No. 3 in One Movement. Symphony No. 4 in One Movement.
Concerto for Oboe and String Orchestra.
FORNEROD: Le Voyage de Printemps, Op. 28. Concerto
for Chamber Orchestra, Op. 35. METTRAUX: Symphony for Chamber Orchestra
No. 1. BALISSAT: Intermezzo for
Chamber Orchestra. MAFFEI: Le Petit Prince for Chamber Orchestra.
Chandos has provided a great service for collectors with their issue of music of Georg Joseph Vogler (1749-1814), who was a contemporary of Mozart, who unjustly dismissed him and his music. This CD contains premiere recordings of a range of music by Vogler, two three-movement symphonies (although one is less than 10 minutes duration), two delectable ballet suites, and three overtures. Spirited, inventive music, brilliantly played by the virtuoso London Mozart Players under Matthias Bamert's direction. Excellent sound, as usual, from Chandos. For something new in 18th century music, don't miss this one.
German composer Otto Nicolai (1810-1849) had a brief but productive life on the Viennese musical scene. His music has for the most part been forgotten except for the overture to his last opera, The Merry Wives of Windsor. MDG's new CDcontains several of his orchestral works, including five overtures, one of which is Merry Wives, and the Variations for Clarinet and Orchestra. The latter was written for clarinet and forte-piano; what we hear on this CD is an arrangement for clarinet and string orchestra made by an anonymous composer. It is a showpiece for the soloist, brilliantly played by Johannes Pieper. The other works are not of lasting importance and there is good reason why they have fallen into neglect. Performances do what can be done, and audio quality is excellent. This CD is identified as Volume II in a Nicolai series, but the first volume (601 0832) doesn't seem to be available in the U. S. It seems Nicolai's greatest contribution to the musical scene was his founding of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in 1842.
British composer Christopher Gunning (b. 1944) has a highly successful career as a composer of music for films (Wild Africa, When the Whales Came), and television (the theme for Poirot). His symphonic music has not been as well known, although there is a recording of his piano concerto, a symphonic work called The Storm and Symphony No. 1, all conducted by the composer. This Chandos CD is the second of his purely orchestral music featuring two recent highly personal symphonies. No. 3, composed in 2005, was written during a difficult time for Gunning. His wife had a life threatening medical problem, and he developed a debilitating heart condition: the five connected movements reflect that trying time (fortunately Gunning and his wife overcame their health problems). Two years later Gunning wrote his Symphony No. 4, another five-movement work "expressing triumph over adversity" ending in a series of brass fanfares. The oboe concerto dates from 2004 composed as a Christmas present for Gunning's daughter,Verity, who apparently has a successful career as a free lance artist. While both symphonies have their impressive moments and obviously were written with the greatest skill, there is little here that is memorable aside from the massive brass peroration towards the conclusion of Symphony No. 4. The oboe concerto, most effective in its melancholy middle movement, is far removed from a virtuoso display piece and highly unlikely to become core repertory. The composer conducts the Royal Philharmonic in outstanding performances of his own music, and the Chandos sound could not be bettered.
Music of American composer William Grant Still (1895-1978), considered to be the dean of African-American composers, has been rather neglected on recordings. Decades ago enterprising conductor Karl Kruger and the Royal Philharmonic recorded Still's best known work, Symphony No. 1 "Afro-American." Since that time, a number of recordings have appeared of Still's music and Naxos is doing their bit for the composer's cause. They already have issued Symphony No. 1, the symphonic poem Africa, and In Memoriam, the latter a moving work that commemorates African-American sacrifices during the Second World War. This new addition to the Naxos American Classics series also features John Jeter conducting the Fort Smith Symphony: Symphonies 4 and 5, and Poem for Orchestra. All of these have effusive descriptions that seem to have little to do with the music. Poem for Orchestra, commissioned by the Cleveland Orchestra and premiered by them in 1944, is described as "an extensive symphonic poem inspired by the concept of a world being reborn spiritually after a period of darkness and desolation." With a playing time of 10:27, it is hardly "extensive," and the music hardly suggests the description.The symphonies, in spite of their elaborate titles, don't amount to much; there are many lovely interludes, but these are hardly major American symphonic works. The Arkansas orchestra is excellent as is Naxos' sound.
Music of 20th Century Swiss composers is featured on a new Gallo disc: Aloÿs Fornerod (1890-1965) (Spring Journey, Op. 28/Concerto for Chamber Orchestra, Op. 35); Laurent Mettraux (b. 1970) (Symphony No. 1 for Chamber Orchestra); Balissat (1936-2007) (Intermezzo for Chamber Orchestra); Fabio Maffei (b. 1968) (The Little Prince for chamber orchestra). Ernest Ansermet conducted the premiere of Spring Journey, a set of five brief movements similar to a French suite. Fornerod's Chamber Orchestra concerto also is light fare. However, Mettraux's Symphony for Chamber Orchestra is a powerful 18-minute tragic episode masterfully developed, and there is good reason why it has won prizes. Somewhat less challenging is Balissat's Intermezzo, the composer's final work. With Maffei's suite of music for The Little Prince we return to lighter music in a most charming way. The excellent orchestra produces lush sounds in all of this music and has been very well recorded. An intriguing CD - look into it! This is called Swiss Symphonic Composers, Vol. 2—I'm sorry that I missed Volume I.
R.E.B. (January 2010)