Symphonies by CPE Bach, Beethoven and Haydn

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven,CPE Bach,Haydn
LABELS: Dux
ALBUM TITLE: CPE Bach * Beethoven * Haydn
WORKS: CPE Bach Symphony in F, Wq. 183/3 Beethoven Symphony No. 1 Haydn Symphony No. 39
PERFORMER: Chamber Orchestra of the Academy of Music, Gdansk/Sigiswald Kuijken
CATALOGUE NO: DUX 1236  

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Sigiswald Kuijken’s programme might appear unremarkable. Yet hearing the opening of Haydn’s Symphony No. 39 immediately after the third of CPE Bach’s mid 1770s Hamburg symphonies ‘with 12 Obbligato Parts’ is to be reminded how much the musical worlds of CPE and Haydn’s Sturm und Drang collide – the Haydn fragmented, living on its nerve endings. And in Kuijken’s account of Beethoven’s opus-numbered symphonic debut, rather than presenting the composer as Haydn’s erstwhile pupil, Beethoven is very much his own man; explosively volatile, an unstoppable force of nature.

Yet the Beethoven comes off the least convincingly. An under-nuanced slow introduction gives way to a gung-ho Allegro con brio authentic in its thrusting cragginess but more than a touch relentless. A graceless Andante does little to offer respite, and, while the Menuetto is every bit the scherzo in all but name, the strings have to hang on for dear life in a mad scramble through the trio. Haydn’s trio, meanwhile, is treated to an engagingly rustic horn-infused swagger, and his Finale positively bristles with snap, crackle, and pop. (Confusingly the liner notes twice refer to this symphony as ‘La passione’ – a different work numbered 49 and in F minor.) 

Best of all, however, is the infectious, quasi-operatic energy of the CPE Bach, enlivened in the Allegro di molto by some pert woodwind interjections, though here, and throughout the disc, the wiry, largely vibrato-less strings are left with nowhere to hide.

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Paul Riley