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Richard HOL (1825-1904)
Symphonies: No. 2 in D minor, Op. 44 (1866) [32’49]; No. 4 in A (1889) [29’33].
Residentie Orchestra The Hague/Matthias Bamert.
Rec. Dr Anton Philipszaal, The Hague, Netherlands, on March 21st-23rd, 2001. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN9952 [62’35]


This is a tremendously interesting disc. The care lavished on two premiere recordings inspires so much respect in this reviewer. I see there are three backers’ logos on the back of the CD, which may help to explain the financing. This is in effect a companion disc to Hol’s Symphonies Nos. 1 and 3 on CHAN9796 (review).

There are echoes of Mendelssohn, Brahms and Dvořák in both of the present works. The layout of the Second Symphony is traditional – slow introduction to first movement; Adagio (subtitled ‘Preghiera’), Scherzo and Finale. Mendelssohn is present in abundance in the Presto Scherzo; very on-the-toes in this performance.

Bamert and his orchestra relish the opportunity to act as advocates for this music and the Chandos engineers have produced a top-flight recording. The mysterious slow introduction leads to an active, determined Allegro molto agitato. Definition in the strings is excellent. This is nicely constructed music, most affectionately played.

The Adagio (‘Preghiera’) begins in a deeply peaceful vein, and flows wonderfully throughout its ten-minute duration, chiefly because Bamert has found the tempo giusto. Bamert goes for the intense approach in the finale, which initially I believed to be too much so, yet it works, especially when the contrast of the Mendelssohnian Scherzo reappears around 2’30.

The Fourth Symphony is in a bright and sunny A major and accordingly dispenses with the need for a shadowy slow introduction. Instead Hol opts for a more approachable Andante prior to the main Allegro moderato. This is extrovert music.

Hol has a written-out slow introduction for the Presto; i.e. using longer note values to imply this tempo, or so I assume from the booklet notes. There is a Dvořák connection here – Dvořák in his energy-drenched mode, that is. There are distinctly darker shadows right at the end, presumably to lead into the interior slow movement. This is a glorious piece and is exquisitely played by the Hague orchestra. The finale is festive, bringing to this reviewer’s mind Schumann’s ‘Rhenish’ symphony.

The playing time is on the low side; only just over an hour. I see Hol wrote an opera called Floris V (1892) – does this have an overture? Could it have been extracted, I wonder? No matter. This is an excellent disc that merits investigation.

Colin Clarke

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