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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Päân I & II
PERFORMER: The Hague Residentie Orchestra/Matthias Bamert
The booklet notes portray the Dutchman Cornelis Dopper (1870-1939) as an underrated composer who was second conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam for more than two decades during the Mengelberg era. It’s not difficult to hear in this first recording of Dopper’s Second Symphony either a musical analogue to a Dutch landscape or the influence of earlier symphonies: Beethoven’s Pastoral is certainly in evidence, the opening bars could be lifted from the second movement of Mendelssohn’s Italian, and the third movement contains echoes of the Andante con moto from Schubert’s Unfinished. The enduring impression I have of this work, however, is of tedious repetition. The opening movement meanders all over creation with a pair of gentle, unprepossessing themes before finally concluding with what Dopper imagines to be a climactic statement of one of them. Any relief at this hard-won respite is quickly undone by the patently formulaic, up-the-staircase-and-back-down theme of the second movement; the prospect of hearing it endlessly repeated invariably reduces me to a fit of despairing giggles. Fortunately the two orchestral sketches entitled Päân possess more pungency and variety, Dopper is a subtle and inventive orchestrator, and these graceful performances make a reasonable case for the music. David Breckbill