Of all the record labels in the world, CPO has
the finest knack for finding interesting obscure music, recording
fine performances thereof, and packaging the whole thing in a
most attractive way. It has scored a winner once again with these
first-rate renditions of symphonies by one heretofore-unsung Friedrich
Ernst Fesca, who has been handed the unjustifiable sentence of
obscurity simply for having suffered the hapless misfortune of
having come to maturity in the omnipresent shadow of Beethoven.
Born into a family that harbored both amateur
and professional musicians, Fesca came into the world surrounded
by favorable conditions for his musical development. His talent
was recognized early on and he was given a thorough musical education,
and began a career as a violinist that took him to some of Germany’s
major musical capitals. His skill as a composer also came to light
early, and he became rather widely respected for his violin concerti
(now lost) and for a number of string quartets. It was not until
slightly later in his brief life that his skill as a symphonist
was recognized and he enjoyed both critical acclaim and wide collegial
respect in that genre during his lifetime. Regrettably for an
entire generation of composers, the public’s acceptance of Beethoven’s
symphonies as the gold standard caused a mountain of worthy music
to fall into complete obscurity after about 1840.
It is fortunate for us, who live in a world completely
saturated by recordings of the standard repertoire, that companies
such as CPO have come into being with a mission to restore worthy
music to the public access, and for this, all lovers of great
music should be eternally grateful.
Fesca’s symphonies are at once captivating to
listening. The second symphony opens with a lovely slow introduction,
played impeccably by the NDR Radiophilharmonie’s wind section.
The harmonic structure is a bit of a Brahmsian foreshadow, and
the listener is immediately captivated by curiosity. When the
strings enter with the main theme, however, we are off to the
races with all of the characteristic devices one would expect
of an 18th century symphony. The respect shown to Haydn,
Mozart and Beethoven is evident from the beginning, but Fesca’s
voice is certainly original, and his thematic material and structural
devices are at once captivating.
String writing is rather more virtuosic that
one would expect in an orchestral work of this period, due much
to Fesca’s standing as one of the leading violinists of his day.
Of particular merit is the splendid third movement of the second
symphony, cast in ternary form, in which a wonderful minor key
tarantella surrounds some lovely wind writing in the major key
b-section. The style of the scherzo movements in both symphonies
is forward looking, and a listener familiar with Brahms’ work
will immediately recognize that they are hearing what would have
been a "taste of things to come" had they been present
for the first performance.
The NDR Radiophilharmonie plays impeccably, with
perfect intonation and flawless rhythmic ensemble. Frank Beermann
has a fine ear for balances and an excellent sense of line, ebb
and flow. They play with an enthusiasm that is infectious, and
the purposefulness with which they deliver this music speaks volumes
to their commitment to bring these fine works to new life.
Sound quality is above reproach and as always,
CPO have given us a lengthy and informative essay about the music,
well-written and with the ideal balance between academics and
anecdotes. Each new disc from this company brings new joys, and
there is not a single thing to disappoint about this release.
Recommended without a moment’s hesitation.