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Symphonies Volume 2
Symphony in B flat major

Symphony in D minor
Symphony in G major

City of London Sinfonia
Andrew Watkinson
Naxos 8.554138 (49.53 minutes)

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.

Terry Barfoot

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