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Johann Ernst HARTMANN (1726-1793)
Complete Symphonies

Symphony No.1 in D major
Symphony No.2 in G major
Symphony No.3 in D major
Symphony No.4 in G major
Concerto Copenhagen
Lars Ulrik Mortensen (harpsichord and director)
Recorded Garnisons Kirke, Copenhagen, August and October 2003
CPO 777 060-2 [51.25]


Violinist and director Johann Ernst Hartmann is mainly known to posterity for his Danish Singspiel though he actually wrote far more instrumental music than songs. A disastrous fire in the Christianborg Palace in 1794 destroyed a large number of his manuscripts so it’s uncertain quite how many symphonies and other concerted music he did write – only one Symphony ever made it to publication, the First, which was published by Hummel in Amsterdam in 1770.

The four symphonies are refined, elegant works with felicitous detail and written very much by a practitioner; from the inside. The deft writing for oboe in the opening movement of the First is a delight as is the delicate and refined playing of the band in the Andantino where they pay great regard to dynamic variance and colour. Control of metre is a feature of the Allegro of the three-movement G major – where drive co-exists harmoniously with lyricism. Hartmann knows just when to press his material forward and to get the two horns to ring out which they do here with fine precision and impact (interestingly he makes do with just one horn in the last two symphonies, which are altogether less ambitious works).

Those two works still have much going for them; the running bass line of the Andantino of the Third in D major and the "falling theme" of the Fourth’s Allegro first movement for example. Then there’s the agile flute writing of the Andante where Hartmann prefers gallantry to expressive potential. He emerges as a consummate organiser, a synthesiser of style, an occasional melodist of distinction. But these are broadly works that revel in refinement and superior taste; no obvious depths are plumbed or sought. Crafted with care Hartmann has left his own mark.

Jonathan Woolf


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