Vanhal: Symphony in D minor, Symphony in G minor, Symphony in C (Sinfonia comista), Symphony in A minor; Symphony in E minor

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Vanhal
LABELS: Teldec Das Alte Werk
WORKS: Symphony in D minor, Symphony in G minor, Symphony in C (Sinfonia comista), Symphony in A minor; Symphony in E minor
PERFORMER: Concerto Köln
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-13141-2
Here we can see the enormous advantages of the CD if properly used – unknown repertoire of brilliant originality; mostly first recordings; played (on original instruments) with fire and subtlety by an ever-improving group; a generous amount of this fascinating music (73:19 mins) and a recorded sound worthy of this distinguished venture.

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It is hard to understand the total eclipse of the Bohemian composer Johann Baptist Vanhal (1739-1813), whose symphonies for a good decade seriously rivalled Haydn’s in popularity. He wrote them partly in Vienna and partly, it seems, on a remote Croatian estate. These symphonies, quartets and other works were loved throughout Europe and printed in Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, London, Paris and Lyon. Vanhal went insane but (at least partially) recovered his sanity and enjoyed a long and useful life.

Famous for his fiery Sturm und Drang style – a peculiarly Austro-German speciality – he composed many symphonies in minor keys, even more than Haydn, and there is no doubt that these frantically nervous works profoundly influenced musical thought in the 1760s and 1770s. If you want to know where Mozart’s Symphony in G minor (K550) came from, listen to this outraged and violent music.

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A great deal of serious research has gone into this admirable CD, the notes for which are written (somewhat truculently) by our leading Vanhal scholar Paul Bryan. Congratulations to Concerto Köln and Teldec. HC Robbins Landon