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.