Holzbauer: Symphony in D, Op. 3/4; Symphony in D minor’ Symphony in A, Op. 2/4; Symphony in G Symphony in E flat, Op. 3/1

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COMPOSERS: Holzbauer
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Symphony in D, Op. 3/4; Symphony in D minor’ Symphony in A, Op. 2/4; Symphony in G Symphony in E flat, Op. 3/1
PERFORMER: L’Orfeo Baroque Orchestra/Michi Gaigg
CATALOGUE NO: 999 585-2
Ignaz Holzbauer was music director of the court of Mannheim for 25 years, from 1753 to 1778. Born in Vienna, he was largely self-taught, but travelled to Italy to learn from Vivaldi, Albinoni and Galuppi. His wife was a singer, and in the 1740s they divided their time between major European opera houses, during which time he wrote operas, ballet music, sacred works and symphonies. He came to Mannheim when the orchestra was at the height of its powers. As the contemporary commentator Christian Schubart wrote, ‘its forte is a thunder clap, its crescendo a cataract, its diminuendo a crystal brook murmuring off into the distance.’

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Such robust sound effects are very much in evidence in these pungent recordings. The symphonies range from short, insistent Baroque – like the attractive D minor, which shows the influence of Vivaldi, and features the antique sound of the dulcimer-like saltiero – to the more radical Classical symphonies like the D major, which begins with a pianissimo tonal rising curtain, or the A major, whose jokey, off-beat Allegro disguises its time signature. There are lovely aria-like slow movements – in the A and E flat major – played with exquisite taste – and explosive openings which fairly crackle in these performances, while the various minuets show what a fine writer of ballet music he must have been.

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The textures produced by the L’Orfeo Baroque Orchestra are dense and gritty, the range of articulation impressive and the lightning changes of tempo and dynamic expertly caught. For those who like Wagenseil and Heinichen, these are treats indeed. Helen Wallace