These are symphonies in a style evolved from Mendelssohn
and cross-fertilised with the wild romantic urgings of Schumann. One
can hear where Peter Lange-Müller might have drawn some of his
inspiration (see my review of the ClassicO CD of the two Lange-Müller
symphonies from one or two decades after these Hartmann works).
The First Symphony declares its fealty to Weber and
Schumann very early on. This is very fresh writing with limpid and inventive
work for the woodwind especially the clarinet. This aspect reminded
me of Berwald. There is also a restlessness about the music which sits
oddly with its undoubted grace. The third movement has some Tchaikovskian
accents - paralleled in the Suites rather than the symphonies. Another
voice is that of Mendelssohn with a definite Nordic breeze and with
floral romance. The Second Symphony starts wistfully again with strong
Nordic flavour. This seems to presage Sibelius’s string writing in Rakastava
mixed with Elgar's best regretful manner. The second movement carries
hints of Grieg and the third includes a strolling promenade: witty and
carefree. The finale is limber and athletic without being heaven-storming.
I was reminded of the understated romance of Haakon Børresen’s
much later Second and Third Symphonies rather than his torridly Tchaikovskian
First Symphony and Violin Concerto.
The notes are ample and all the technical dimensions
are very well handled. A wonderfully refreshing disc of music with plenty
of fantasy and hardly any grief or angst.