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CD Review

Otto Nicolai

Orchestral Works

  • Overture "The Merry Wives of Windsor", WoO 114
  • Overture "Christmas", WoO 109
  • Overture "Die Heimkehr des Verbannten", WoO 113
  • Overture "Church Festival", Op. 31 *
  • Variations brillantes for Clarinet and Orchestra after "La Sonnambula", Op. 26
Johannes Rieper, clarinet
* Evangelisches Kantorei Siegen
South Westphalia Philharmonic Orchestra/David Stern
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG6011268-2 48m DDD
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Although Otto Nicolai (1810-1849) died at the relatively young age of 39, he succeeded in writing an appreciable number of works. He focused mainly on the operatic and symphonic genres, and listening to this second volume of orchestral works from MD&G dedicated to his orchestral output, one must come to the conclusion that he was not just a one-off wonder.

The disc naturally includes the perennial "Merry Wives of Windsor" but the three remaining overtures highlight Nicolai's free-flowing ability to create both festive and dramatic sounds in brilliant orchestration and contrasting rhythmic colours. An oddity in the composer's artistic life is that he never wrote concertante pieces despite his accomplishments as a pianist. Interestingly the "Sonnambula" Variations is one such work which has been put together by an unknown composer as the original work seems to have been lost. This is a superb addition to the Nicolai discography although lightly more generous playing time would not have been amiss.

Copyright © 2009, Gerald Fenech