Symphonies Volume 2
Symphony in B flat major
Symphony in D minor
Symphony in G
City of London
Naxos 8.554138 (49.53
Johann Baptist Vanhal was a Bohemian contemporary of Mozart and Haydn, who
like them wrote many symphonies. Three of these pieces are collected here
in lively performances and good sound. Andrew Watkinson directs the City
of London Sinfonia, who sound well, with tight ensemble in faster movements
and pleasing tone in the slower music.
Vanhal worked in Vienna for many years, and it is known that during the 1780s
he actually played string quartets with Haydn and Mozart. But these three
symphonies are rather earlier, dating from the 1770s and before. The accompanying
notes do not tell us exactly when they were written, probably because no
exact information is available. That state of affairs rather sums things
up, since the music is enterprising and interesting, but is not the least
memorable. Nothing wrong with that of course, and Vanhal gives much pleasure
to the listener. But he does so without being arresting.
Perhaps the performances might have added more personality to these symphonies,
with that extra degree of polish and lan, particularly in the fast
music. After all, these talented musicians do not play Vanhal very often,
and rehearsal time is always tight.
All credit to Watkinson, the orchestra and the skilful Naxos engineers for
bringing the music before the wider public. However, these days we do expect
rather more than fifty minutes per disc, even at bargain price.