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17.1.07

Dip Your Ears, No. 74

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P. Wranitzky, Symphonies opp. 31 & 52, NDR Phil / Griffiths
The only thing you are likely to be less familiar with than Paul Wranitzky is one of his 51 symphonies. Wranitzky (1756-1808) has only come to my attention through a recent cpo recording of symphonies opp.31 and 51 (an earlier Chandos recording I had seen, not heard, and forgotten about) and what I know of Wranitzky comes courtesy of the excellent liner notes of that issue. So it turns out that the contemporary of Mozart who might also find listed as “Pavel Vranicky” was involved with all the great composers of his time: He was in the same Masonic lodge as Mozart and after his death he helped his widow Constanze in her dealings with publishers. He mediated between Haydn and the Tonkünstler Scoietät, he conducted the Vienna premiere of Haydn’s Die Schöpfung and the premiere of Beethoven’s first symphony. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe contacted him to compose the music for a sequel Die Zauberflöte.

Wranitzky seems fond of thematic symphonies: Many of his works have grandiloquent titles and thematic propositions. The leading work on this (and the Chandos) disc is a good example: Grande Sinfonie caractéristique pour la paix avec la Republique française is the cumbersome moniker. Its movements subtitled:

No.1 – The Revolution. March of the English. March of the Austrians and Prussians.
No.2 – Fate and Death of Louis XVI. Funeral March.
No.3 – March of the English. March of the Allies. Tumult of a Battle.
No.4 – Peace Negotiations. Shout of Joy at the Restoration of Peace.

There are wonderful moments in this music (Haydn, less Mozart, is evoked); the kind that those who have already discovered and embraced Joseph Martin Kraus (a teacher of Wranitzky’s) or Joseph Onslow will very much enjoy… as should anyone else who enjoys symphonic music from the classical period and has discovered enough Haydn for the time being. But it can’t be denied that in his attempt to write theme-music he can go a little overboard. A little too dainty and courtly in some of the marches or the Louis XIV part… a little preponderous, bold and simple in the war scenes. He’s altogether free of these minor distractions in the D major symphony op.52 which would be a gem even if the NDR Radiophilharmonie under Howard Griffiths wasn’t playing the living hell out of it. For those who enjoy the semi-precious discoveries off the beaten paths of our musical diet, this hybrid-SACD is another delightful contribution from the major supplier of the charming curiosita, cpo.

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