Kalliwoda’s Symphony No. 1 and Violin Concerto No. 1 conducted by Frieder Bernius

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COMPOSERS: Kalliwoda
ALBUM TITLE: Kalliwoda
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Violin Concerto No. 1; Introduction and Variations for clarinet and orchestra, Op. 128
PERFORMER: Daniel Sepec (violin), Pierre-André Taillard (clarinet); Hofkapelle Stuttgart/Frieder Bernius


The exodus of talented Czech musicians to all parts of Europe in the 18th century owing to a lack of gainful employment at home is a familiar story. Less celebrated is their fate in the 19th century: Smetana fled Prague’s cultural doldrums in the late 1850s, and many others sought employment in Germany, among them Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda (1801-66) (or, as he was christened, Jan Krtitel Václav Kalivoda). Born in Prague, Kalliwoda was hugely prolific as a composer, and was also a talented conductor and solo violinist. His music blends Classical poise with early Romantic energy, and is often reminiscent of Weber under whom he performed as a teenager in Prague.

The opening of his Violin Concertino – like Beethoven’s Violin Concerto it opens with solo drum beats – has a somewhat military cut and is throughout unfailingly agreeable yet has original harmonic touches. Daniel Sepec’s elegant solo playing is a delight and the horn section and wind players, in a warm recording, deliver rich tone. Nevertheless, it is unlikely to become a concert favourite.

There is rather more excitement on offer in the Introduction and Variations for clarinet and orchestra, a work that could grace any virtuoso clarinettist’s repertoire, but the work that stands out is Kalliwoda’s First Symphony. The opening movement has real intensity and if the slow movement develops a little too comfortably, its opening aspires to Beethovenian nobility. The captivating Menuetto and powerful finale, replete with muscular counterpoint, clearly influenced Schumann. This is a work that deserves to be heard more frequently. If not always flawless, these performances bring real conviction to unfamiliar repertoire.


Jan Smaczny