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Virtuoso Timpani Concertos (edited and published by Harrison POWLEY)
Georg DRUSCHETZKY (1784-1819)
Concerto per 6 Timpani and Orchestra (late 1790s) [15.26]
Partita in C (late 1790s) [15.07]
Andrť PHILIDOR (c. 1647-1730) and Jacques PHILIDOR (1657-1708)
Marche de timballes (1685) [3.37]
Johann Carl Christian FISCHER (1752-1807)
Symphonie mit acht obligaten pauken (1780s) [14.39]
Johann Melchior MOLTER (1697-1765)
Sinfonia No. 99 (1750) [15.12]
Johann Christoph GRAUPNER (1683-1760)
Sinfonia a 2 corni, timpani, 2 violini, viola, e cembalo (1747) [14.46]
Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra Chamber Orchestra/Alexander Peter, solo timpanist and conductor.
Recorded at the Lutherkirche, Radebul, Germany, 10 September 2003.
Notes in English and Deutsch.
Photo of orchestra with listing of all players and photo and full credits of score editor Harrison Powley.
NAXOS 8.557610 [78.38]
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Virtuoso timpani playing is not something that one immediately associates with late 18th century Vienna, but on 29 April 1798 Georg Roth gave a concert at the Kärtnertor Theater at which he performed on sixteen timpani with three sticks in each hand. Another timpanist played on ten timpani and juggled his sticks as he ran from drum to drum.

This disc from timpanist Alexander Peter and the Dresden Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra explores this repertoire, presenting concertante works for timpani and orchestra from the late 18th century. This is a potentially fascinating area; one of those rare corners of the repertoire which has the potential to be illuminated by a well placed new disc. None of the composers on this disc is well known, but that does not necessarily need to be a disadvantage. Unfortunately, these concertos fail to live up to the image of Georg Roth juggling his sticks; they remain musically rather thin and sorely tested by the limitations of the timpani as solo instruments.

Georg Druschetzky, a virtuoso timpanist as well as a composer, solves the problems of solo timpani by constantly doubling the timpani with other instruments. His concerto for six timpani is charming, but at 15 minutes it rather over-stays its welcome. His Partita in C, again uses six diatonically tuned instruments, and enlivens the faster movements with some arpeggiated passages.

But the use of a set of diatonically tuned timpani means that the timpanist has only limited scope for modulation. Johan Carl Christian Fischerís Symphony with eight obbligato timpani, uses timpani tuned to G,A,B,c,d,e,f and g. Fischerís solo timpani part makes good use of the rhythmic potential of the drums and the soloist often acts independently of the orchestra, but he is inevitably left behind during the more chromatic passages and in interesting modulations.

Johann Melchior Molterís Sinfonia No. 99 in F major is more of a suite, harking back to baroque practice. Many of the movements are enlivened by an attractive trumpet part; the timpani act more of a concertante part rather than a full solo and as such contribute attractively to the whole. Johann Christoph Graupnerís Sinfonia is similar, in that it is written for string, flutes, oboe, trumpets and continuo. Graupner often treats the timpani melodically, but I could have wished that Alexander Peter played with more of a sense of bravura.

Musically, the items on the disc remind me of early Mozart or J.C Bach. The compositions are not necessarily strong and do rather require more help than they receive here. The performances are accurate and rather careful; I missed a sense of virtuoso display and a feeling that the soloist could dominate the orchestra occasionally. It might be that the smaller timpani used in the 18th century accompanied by modern instruments is not an ideal mix, but also there might be an issue with Alexander Peter doubling as soloist and conductor.

There is one slight curiosity about the production of the disc; the editor of the music not only gets a credit in the booklet, he gets his picture, a short biography and a full listing of the editions used. It makes one wonder who originated the disc.

This is a slightly disappointing glimpse into what has the potential to be a fascinating corner of the repertoire. It remains to be seen whether any other timpanists take up the challenge.

Robert Hugill

see also review by Paul Shoemaker



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