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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Franz Krommer - Symphonies Nos. 1-3 (Howard Griffiths)


Information

Composer: Franz Krommer
  • (01) Symphony No. 1 in F major, Op. 12
  • (05) Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 40
  • (09) Symphony No. 3 in D major, Op. 62

Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana
Howard Griffiths, conductor

Date: 2016
Label: cpo

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Review

Like Clementi and Cherubini, Franz Krommer (1759-1831) was a contemporary of Mozart who outlived Beethoven and Schubert. By the time of his death he was already something of an anachronism. Yet during a lifetime spent largely in Vienna, the Bohemian-born Krommer was a prolific and successful composer of chamber music, concertos and at least 10 symphonies, of which eight have survived. In some quarters he was even regarded, optimistically, as a rival to Beethoven.

These days Krommer is known mainly for his mellifluous, stress-free clarinet concertos. But on this evidence his symphonies are well worth an airing, especially in performances as lively and polished as these. Haydn and Mozart are obvious influences – how could they not be? – in the first three, composed between 1797 and 1807, though in Nos 2 and 3 there are hints of the young Beethoven’s more strenuous rhetoric. As with other composers of his generation, Krommer’s musical instincts tend to be decorative rather than developmental; and a prime feature of all three works is the inventive writing for woodwind, whether embellishing the themes in the slow movements or adding their cheeky, chuckling commentaries in the allegros.

While memorable tunes are at a premium, the music’s animation, colour and harmonic deftness offer fair compensation. The scampering outer movements of Nos 1 and 3 conjure the spirit of opera buffa, reinforced in the opening Allegro of No 1 by what sounds like a blatant crib from the Così fan tutte Overture. After a stalking D minor slow introduction that evokes Mozart’s Prague Symphony, the Allegro vivace of No 2 is the most ruggedly Beethovenian music in all three symphonies, though the abiding impression is of a series of gestures rather than of an inexorable forward drive, à la Beethoven.

Krommer has an engaging line in theme and-variation slow movements and lusty minuet-scherzos, complete with waltzing trios. The Adagio of No 2 – taken very smartly here – sounds like a homage to the Andante of Haydn’s last completed String Quartet, Op 77 No 2 (I’m not complaining), while the mysterious nocturnal march of No 3 momentarily suggested the Marche nocturne in Berlioz’s L’enfance du Christ. This is not, perhaps, music to listen to la tête dans les mains. But with zestful, rhythmically alert playing from the Swiss orchestra under Howard Griffiths (the wind taking their opportunities with style and spirit) and an ideally balanced recording, Krommer’s genial invention should give pleasure to anyone who enjoys venturing beyond the Classical mainstream.

-- Richard Wigmore, Gramophone

More reviews:

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Franz Krommer (27 November 1759 in Kamenice u Jihlavy – 8 January 1831 in Vienna) was a Czech violinist and composer of classical music. He was a violinist in the orchestra of the duke of Styria, and Maestro di Cappella for Duke Ignaz Fuchs, before succeeding Leopold Kozeluch as composer for the Imperial Court of Austria (from 1813 until his death in 1831). Krommer's output was prolific, with at least 300 published compositions in at least 110 opus numbers, including at least 9 symphonies, 70 string quartets, 15 string quintets, and many works for wind ensemble, for which he is best known today.

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Howard Griffiths (born 24 February 1950 in Hastings) is a British conductor. Griffiths studied music at the Royal College of Music, London, and has lived in Switzerland since 1981. He was Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Zurich Chamber Orchestra from 1996 to 2006. Since the season 2007/08, he is General Music Director of the Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester, and has also appeared as a guest conductor with many leading orchestras all over the world. Griffiths has a broad repertoire, with about 100 CD recordings with various labels (including Warner, Universal, cpo, Sony and Koch).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Griffiths_(conductor)

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