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Franz Anton HOFFMEISTER (1825-1899)
Symphony in G major La festa della Pace 1791 (1940) [23:53]
Symphony in E major (1778) [19:07]
Symphony in D major (1778) [18:33]
London Mozart Players/Mathias Bamert
rec. Church of St. Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, London, 25-26 April 2005. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN 10351 [61:43]


This is the latest in the Chandos series: Music by Contemporaries of Mozart. Releases in this series have been somewhat thin on the ground recently, and it is good to welcome this disc, The idea behind it is a good one, and it gives us the opportunity to encounter repertoire we would not otherwise hear.

The production values of the series have been well maintained. The recording has been done close-up enough so that we can hear everything that is going on within the orchestra yet sufficient space has been allowed for us to hear the glowing acoustic of the church.

In addition the playing and direction of the London Mozart Players is beyond reproach. They play with considerable sympathy for the repertoire. The only slightly spooky feature of the disc is the photograph of the conductor, looking as though he is a refugee from an old Hammer movie.

The booklet tells of how Hoffmeister was an also-ran in the composer stakes in the 1800s Vienna. While this might be a reasonably accurate assessment of the composer’s work, if one listens to these symphonies in their own right, unclouded by critical babble about other composers they are extremely attractive and well written. They might not display the sheer thematic development of Mozart and Haydn but they are well worth resurrecting for our pleasure.

In addition to being a composer, Hoffmeister was also a very successful music publisher. His publishing house handled Haydn, Mozart, Vanhal, Albrechtsberger, Pleyel and others, as well as his own music. The publishing company founded by Hoffmeister was a forerunner of a firm which still exists today in the form of C.F. Peters. This took much of his effort and was a more important activity than composing. This is a pity since who can tell what we might have bestowed on us had he continued composing.

There are three symphonies on this disc: two early works, and one from his maturity. The Symphonies in E major and D major are the two early works. Each has strong melodic content, sparkling outer movements, graceful minuets and very attractive melancholic slow movements. Both were published by Breitkopf of Leipzig and listening to them one may understand why Hoffmeister was so popular with his audiences.

The Symphony in G major, is a later and more substantial work, written to commemorate the signing of a peace treaty with Turkey by the Emperor Leopold II on 4 August 1791. The last movement includes "Turkish music", so beloved of composers like Mozart and Haydn. This is written for cymbals, triangle and bass drum and is used very effectively. It is interesting to note that this is the same instrumental combination which Haydn was to use so successfully in his Military Symphony, No. 100, just a few years after Hoffmeister had used the very same combination.

Chandos are to be congratulated for providing such an enterprising and interesting series and for ensuring that it is in such capable hands. Until this disc appeared I had thought that Chandos had dropped the project. Let us hope that many more follow – it is up to you. Only if they are purchased in sufficient numbers will the record companies invest in this type of project.

John Phillips



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