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   Symphonies

Classical Czech Symphonies

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Chandos 9740

Václav Pichl
(1741-1805)

Symphony in B Flat Major, Z23
Symphony in E Flat Major, Z24
Symphony in G Major, Z22
Symphony in C Major, Z21
Symphony in D Major "Diana", Z16

London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert
Chandos CHAN9740 68:07

There is some confusion about the symphonies of the prolific Czech composer Václav (aka Wenzel) Pichl, in that some of his work may have been attributed to others, and the work of others attributed to him. A catalogue by Anita Zakin lists 39 symphonies, although other references credit him with many more. The symphonies on this CD are thought to have been written around 1769-70.

Pichl's career took him to Hungary, a twenty-year stint as Kapellmeister to Archduke Ferdinand in Lombardy, and finally to Vienna. With the exception of the last symphony which includes a minuet, all those recorded here are in three movements. This is another in Chandos's Contemporaries of Mozart series. Naxos 8.557761 contains four of his named symphonies, including the Diana Symphony.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Swiss Symphonies

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Sterling CDS-1081-2

Robert Hermann
(1869-1912)

Symphony #1 in C Major, Op. 7 (1895)
Symphony #2 in B minor, Op. 11 (1905)

Württemberg Philharmonic Orchestra, Reutlingen/Christopher Fifield
Sterling CDS-1081-2 74:42

Sterling's series of releases of rare music by Romantic composers visits Switzerland this time. Hermann was a student of Engelbert Humperdinck and a follower of Edvard Grieg. His two symphonies are well-crafted and never fail to hold interest.

Both works are wide-eyed and optimistic, often seeming to depict middle Europe's great outdoors. Though not as grand in conception as Anton Bruckner's symphonies, Hermann's slow movements especially emply a similar pastoral palette.

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More Than Opera

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EMI 763949-2

Charles Gounod
(1818-1893)

Symphony #1 in D Major (1855)
Symphony #2 in E Flat Major (c. 1856)

Toulouse Capitole Orchestra/Michel Plasson
EMI L'Espirit Français CDM763949-2 58:33

The second symphony was recorded many years ago by Igor Markevitch, but it's only quite recently that both symphonies have appeared in a handful of versions. Despite being written in the mid-nineteenth century, the orchestration is strongly reminiscent of Beethoven. Emotional depths are not plumbed, but pleasure is all but guaranteed in the hands of Plasson, a specialist in French repertoire. More rarely recorded is Gounod's delightful Little Symphony for winds and written in his old age. It's well worth seeking out.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Unknown Schubert 2

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Hyperion CDA67000

Franz Schubert
(1797-1828)

Symphony in D Major, D.615 (1818)
Symphony in D Major, D.708A (1820-21)
Symphony #10 in D Major, D. 936A (1828)

Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras
Hyperion CDA67000 54:02

All of the works on this CD have been prepared by the British musicologist Brian Newbould. The first two items comprising two and four movements respectively, have been left in incomplete form so that some movements stop unexpectedly. The Symphony #10 is a more substantial work in three movements. Of particular interest is its superb slow movement, which anticipates Gustav Mahler. Newbould has also "completed" the Unfinished Symphony and Naxos has recorded an orchestration of the Death and the Maiden string quartet which I haven't heard.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Unknown Schubert 1

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Naxos 8.553095

Franz Schubert
(1797-1828)

Symphony #4 in C Minor "Tragic", D. 417
Symphony in C Major

Failoni Orchestra/Michael Halász
Naxos 8.553095 75:57

Apart from the eight familiar Schubert symphonies (1-6, 8, 9), there are various others which have either been completed or orchestrated after Schubert's death. The fourth symphony is well-known. The Symphony in C Major is an orchestration by Joseph Joachim, the nineteeth-century violinist and composer, of the Grand Duo D. 812 for two pianos. Robert Schumann and others found a symphonic quality to the duo and wondered if Schubert had intended it as such. Purists may quibble, but the orchestration sounds suitably Schubertian and provides us with about 45 minutes of attractive orchestral music. Halász has recorded the rest of the usual canon for Naxos and although I have not heard them all, I can recommend those that I have.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Schubert Redux

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CPO 999424

Felix Weingartner
(1863-1942)

Violin Concerto in G Major, Op. 52 (1911) 1

Franz Schubert
(1797-1828)

Symphony in E Major, D. 729 (1821),
arranged by Weingartner

1 Laurent Albrecht Breuninger, violin
SWR Radio Orchestra, Kaiserslautern/Alun Francis
CPO 999424-2 67:55

Although written in the same year that Mahler died, Weingartner's concerto is very much of the previous century and is a Romantic work which allows the soloist plenty of scope for technical and emotional display. The symphony, sometimes known as #7, where it fits appropriately, is another that Schubert discarded, having orchestrated only a part of the first movement. Various attempts at scoring it have been made, Weingartner's being the best-known. The arrangement for the most part is appropriately Schubertian and provides a work that deserves more frequent outings. Recordings of it have been few, but this one offers it in the best light.

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[ Sheet music by Weingartner: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

New England Triptych

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Naxos 8.559625

William Schuman
(1910-1992)

Symphony #6 (1948)
Prayer in a Time of War (1943)
New England Triptych (1956)

Seattle Symphony Orchestra/Gerard Schwarz
Naxos 8.559625 60:51

This CD is part of a series of the eight extant Schuman symphonies numbered 3-10, the earlier two having been withdrawn. Both the symphony and the Prayer in a Time of War show Schuman's usual traits, notably his frequent use of brass, and of unusual percussion writing. The New England Triptych, based on hymn tunes by William Billings, is probably the most familiar Schuman work, and receives a good performance here.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Inspired by Homer

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Hyperion CDA67766

Lodewijk Mortelmans
(1868-1952)

Homeric Symphony (1898)
Morning Mood (1922)
Myth of Spring (1895)

Royal Flemish Philharmonic Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins
Hyperion CDA67766 66:46

The Flemish composer Mortelmans was better known during his lifetime for his songs and piano music. The symphony, which runs about 43 minutes, is in the usual four movements and is inspired by The Iliad and The Odyssey. While Wagner's influence is clearly discernible in some of the orchestration, it is not excessive. The other two pieces are tone poems whose titles accurately tell the listener what to expect.

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Good Symphonic Fun

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CPO 999706

George Antheil
(1900-1959)

Symphony #4 "1942" (1942-43)
Decatur at Algiers (1943)
Symphony #5 "Joyous" (1947-48)

Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hugh Wolff
CPO 999706-2 63:03

American George Antheil is best known, or perhaps notorious, for his early Ballet mécanique, written before a radical change of style. This CD is part of a series containing all six symphonies and various short orchestral pieces.

The brief Decatur at Algiers is a hommage to the naval hero. The fourth symphony, very much a war symphony, is clearly influenced by Shostakovich, while the fifth owes a great deal to Prokofiev although its beautiful slow movement has an unmistakable dash of Copland.

Read the Classical Net Review

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Neo-Classical Italian

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CPO 777265

Alfredo Casella
(1883-1947)

Symphony #3, Op. 63 (1939-40)
Italia-Rhapsody for Large Orchestra, Op. 11 (1909)

WDR Symphony Orchestra, Köln/Alun Francis
CPO 777265 66:28

Casella's third symphony shows a number of influences, not least of them Mahler and Soviet composers of the time. Part of the last movement sounds remarkably like Piston's 6th symphony, but was written about fifteen years earlier – at least it's a point of comparison. Italia is, as you might think, a much more lighthearted affair, and contains some of the expected themes.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]
Trumpet