Vogler: Symphonies in D minor and G

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COMPOSERS: Vogler
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphonies in D minor and G; Ballet Suites Nos 1 & 2; Athalie – Overture; Hamlet – Overture; Erwin und Elmire – Overture
PERFORMER: London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10504

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Chandos’s Contemporaries of Mozart series continues to explore obscure corners of the late 18th-century orchestral repertoire. In his day, Georg Joseph Vogler, or ‘Abbé’ Vogler as he was called after he became chaplain at the Mannheim court, was more renowned as an improviser than a composer.

There are mixed reports about a contest between him and Beethoven, but Mozart was always disparaging about Vogler, describing him as a musical buffoon, disliked by the orchestra.

On the evidence that is presented here, Vogler certainly wasn’t a born symphonist. His one full-blown symphony, in D minor, isn’t short on outbursts of fury, but they sit awkwardly among four-square and rather inconsequential melodies.

Vogler’s other symphony, in G major, is really an Italian overture with a quite affecting slow middle section in the minor, but more accomplished is the imposing overture to Racine’s Athalie, whose instrumentation features piccolos and clarinets. There is also a Hamlet overture and a couple of suites put together out of various ballets.

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Matthias Bamert and the London Mozart Players perform all these pieces with their customary care and polish, but it’s hard in the end not to wish that the music was more memorable. Misha Donat