WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Konzertstück in F minor
PERFORMER: Melvyn Tan (fortepiano)London Classical Players/Roger Norrington
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 55348 2 DDD
Weber was just twenty when he wrote his two symphonies. They were tailor-made for the small orchestra owned by the Duke of Württemberg, deep in the seclusion of Upper Silesia. Weber’s love of instruments in the tenor register is already apparent; and since there were no clarinets in the Duke’s orchestra, he gave the opening theme of the second symphony’s Adagio to a solo viola, to ravishing effect. The future composer of Oberon also gave a prominent and unusually chromatic role to the horns – indeed, the second subject in the opening movement of the same symphony, with its mixture of ‘stopped’ and ‘open’ notes severely disrupting the melodic line, is enough to test one’s allegiance to period instruments to the limit. Frustratingly enough, it was in Silesia that the valve-horn was patented, only a decade later.
For all their charm and Haydnesque wit, the symphonies are hardly profound works. Far more original and characteristic is the well known Konzertstück, a single-movement piano concerto to which Weber attached a prototypal Romantic programme. Melvyn Tan copes well with its virtuoso demands, though without quite finding the lightness of touch its presto finale demands. Altogether, an attractive disc. Misha Donat