Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Cornelis DOPPER (1870-1939)
Symphony No.2, Päân I, Päân II
Residentie Orchestra The Hague/Matthias Bamert
Recorded 2000
Chandos CHAN 9884 [65.08]
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Cornelis Dopper (1870-1939) was a Dutch composer, which, if you think about it, is a rare species after you have considered Sweelinck (who bridged the 16th/17th centuries), Alphons Diepenbrock who just predates Dopper, and Willem Pijper who flourished between the two world wars. Pivotal to Dutch music-making in the early years of last century is the Concertgebouw Orchestra and its leading light, the conductor Willem Mengelberg, it was who gave Dopper his post as second conductor to the orchestra between 1908 and 1931. Dopper trained as a violinist, studied composition with the German Reinecke in Leipzig, and eventually ended up as a conductor in America where he premiered Puccini's Madama Butterfly. During his years in Amsterdam with Mengelberg he also gave first performances of much French music as well as Sibelius, de Falla and Reger, and is remembered for his pioneering children's concerts. His own compositions include seven symphonies, but also several operas, but, despite his champions Mengelberg and Richard Strauss, his name disappeared from concert programmes after 1945.

Chandos and Matthias Bamert have chosen to record the second symphony. It's certainly not a hard work to digest in terms of harmonic vocabulary, indeed its weaknesses are rooted in this very lack of adventure. True there are fine melodic moments and sound orchestration, but elsewhere there's a lot of meandering, and very basic structures such as endless scale passages or four-bar phrases. The first movement is the best, somehow thereafter it all falls away and never quite reaches the same heights. Brass fanfares abound but without any Brucknerian majesty or Sibelian menace, rustic (clog?) dances make ritual appearances in a Beethoven Pastoral symphony-like mode but there's too much of a dour quality prevailing, which hints heavily at Dutch Calvinism. The two Paens are frankly no more than fillers. It's all well played by the Residentie Orchestra (significantly not by the Concertgebouw) and conscientiously conducted by the ever-enterprising Bamert but his heart does not seem to be in it all the time and there's no sign of a great Dopper revival ahead on the strength of this sample.

Christopher Fifield.

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