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The Classical Explorer

   Symphonies: February 2009 Archives

Master of Orchestral Texture

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Timpani 1C1125

Vincent d'Indy
(1851-1931)

Symphony #1 "Italian" in A Major (1870-72)
Concerto in E Flat Major for Piano, Flute, Cello & Strings, Op. 89 (1926)

Brigitte Engerer, piano
Magali Mosnier, flute
Marc Coppey, cello
Orchestre de Bretagne/Lionel Bringuier
Timpani 1C1125 63:44

These works, the first and last orchestral works d'Indy wrote, are in different ways, hommages. Although his main musical sympathies lay elsewhere, a sojourn in Italy inspired the young composer to write a Symphonie italienne using Rome, Florence, Venice and Naples as the basis for the four movements in which the influence and model of Mendelssohn's Italian symphony are inescapable. At one point, I'm reminded incongruously of Randall Thompson's third symphony!

The concerto at first evokes J.S. Bach and eventually becomes a sort of neo-classical concerto grosso. This rarely-recorded music helps to round out our knowledge of the composer who to many would perhaps be known only by his Symphony on a French Mountain Air (Symphonie sur un chant montagnard français).

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

The Composer Who Completed Turandot

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CPO 777080-2

Franco Alfano
(1875-1954)

Symphony #1 "Classica" (1908-10, rev 1953)
Symphony #2 (1931-2)

Brandenburg State Orchestra, Frankfurt/Israel Yinon
CPO 777080-2 73:30

Alfano is best known as the man who completed Puccini's Turandot. He spent some years working outside of Italy before returning to hold a number of posts for the rest of his life.

The first symphony originally had four movements but Alfano decided to cut the scherzo. To some tastes, it might sound somewhat overegged or even, as Grove puts it, long-winded. The second, though longer than the first, is more neo-classical with lighter textures. In general, the music shows some similarities to such composers as Respighi and Pizzetti.

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

Musical Talent Cut Short

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Dabringhaus und Grimm MDG3350817-2

Norbert Burgmüller
(1810-1836)

Overture, Op. 5 (c. 1830)
Symphony #2 in D Major, Op. 11 (c. 1836)
Piano Concerto in F Sharp minor, Op. 1 (1829)

Leonard Hokanson, piano
Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra/Gernot Schmalfuss
Dabringhaus und Grimm MDG3350817-2 77:42

Burgmüller was the most talented of his family: his father and elder brother Friedrich were also composers. He suffered from an apparent lack of ambition and indifferent health, and is thought to have died of an epileptic seizure. His music was highly thought of by Mendelssohn and Schumann: these composers are evident influences, as is Schubert. The overture, which is fairly long for the period, was for an incomplete opera, and is quite dramatic. The piano concerto was in part a vehicle for establishing his reputation as a pianist and is reminiscent of Chopin and Hummel. The symphony has only three movements and was the composer's last work. Note that the label is known is some countries as either MD&G or Dabringhaus und Grimm.

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

Bruckner's Champion

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NCA SACD 60150-215

Johann Ritter von Herbeck
(1831-1877)

Symphony #4 in D minor
   "Orgelsymphonie" (1877)
Symphonic Variations in F Major (1875)

Irénée Peyrot, organ
Hamburg Symphony Orchestra/Martin Haselböck
NCA 60150-215

Herbeck was an Austrian conductor and mostly self-taught composer. As a conductor in Vienna he was an influential promoter of new or little-performed works. One claim to fame is that upon being shown the manuscript of Franz Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony he immediately realized its worth and arranged for the first performance in 1865. Herbeck admired Richard Wagner and conducted both Rienzi and Die Meistersinger. He also recognized Anton Bruckner's potential and helped him secure a position at the Vienna Conservatory.

His music is very much in the Romantic vein, reminiscent of Robert Schumann. Best known for his sacred choral works, especially "Pueri, concinite", this is the first recording of his orchestral music on CD. Both are mature works. The concise fourth symphony (25 min) is somewhat reminiscent of Camille Saint-Saëns' third symphony (written nine years later) but in a decidedly Viennese style. The organ is more prominent: for instance the fourth movement begins with a 45-second solo organ fanfare. The Symphonic Variations is a set of 12 variations on an original theme.

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

Mahler's Protégé

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CPO 777163-2

Bruno Walter
(1876-1962)

Symphony #1 in D Minor (1906)

NDR Symphony Orchestra/Leon Botstein
CPO 777163-2 59:30

The record companies have given us symphonies by such conductors as Felix Weingartner, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Otto Klemperer, and now CPO has provided the first of Bruno Walter's two symphonies. Walter had aspired to be the same sort of conductor-composer as Gustav Mahler whose work, as you might expect, was a strong influence on his composition style on the evidence we have here: there are also more than a few traces of such composers as Richard Strauss and Anton Bruckner. While Walter is not as great a composer as his models, he more than holds his own against the work of his fellow conductors.

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Monumental Symphony for Troubled Times

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Naïve V4974

Sergei Liapunov
(1859-1924)

Symphony #2 in B Flat Minor, Op. 66 (1917)

Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra/Yevgeny Svetlanov
Naïve V4974 61:54

Lyapunov's two most important influences were Serge Taneyev and Mili Balakirev, and while there are passages which remind the listener of both composers, this symphony is somewhat more ambitious than comparable works by either, and to some extent reflects the turbulent period during which it was composed. Svetlanov was a champion of his country's music and gives an exciting account of this work, recorded in concert with little evidence of an audience's presence until the end.

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

An Australian Connection

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Chandos CHAN9757

Edgar Bainton
(1880-1956)

Symphony #2 (1939-40)

John Gough
(1903-1951)

Serenade for Small Orchestra (1931)

Hubert Clifford
(1904-1959)

Symphony 1940 (1938-40)

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley
Chandos CHAN9757 72:30

Bainton moved to Australia to take up a conservatorium position and remained there for the rest of his life. Clifford and Gough each left Australia to study in England and remained there. The Bainton symphony sounds much like Arnold Bax while Clifford's symphony has much in common with Walton's 1st and is about the same length. Gough's tiny serenade evokes Frederick Delius. A further CD of orchestral music by Clifford and Bainton is on Chandos CHAN10019, as well as a new release dedicated to Bainton on Chandos CHAN10460.

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Salieri's Successor

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CPO 777104-2

Joseph Leopold Eybler
(1765-1846)

Symphony #1 in C Major
Symphony #2 in D Minor
Overture

L'Orchestre de Chambre de Genève/Michael Hofstetter
CPO 777104-2 57:49

The Viennese composer Eybler's two symphonies are thought to date from the late 1780s. They sound very much like Haydn: the first is in festive mode as in the Maria Theresa symphony while the second is a darker work. The orchestra uses authentic instruments which works to the music's benefit. There is nothing especially original here – just well-made, well-played, and enjoyable late Classical era music.

[ Available on Multichannel Hybrid SACD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

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