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Ernst Wilhelm WOLF (1735-1792)
Symphonies: E flat [16'51]; F [23'51]; C (1786) [17'20]; D [6'54].
Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, Weimar/Nicolás Pasquet.
rec. Concert Hall of the Franz Liszt University of Music, Weimar, 4-6 April 2003. DDD
NAXOS 8.557132 [64'56]

Interesting. Ernst Wilhelm Wolf was Kapellmeister at Weimar from 1772 to 1791, composing around 35 symphonies. Some are lost, but here are four that represent Wolf's astonishingly fertile imagination. Only the C major is explicitly dated (1786).

On one level, the world of the Wind Serenade is never too far away, and Wolf's use of these instruments makes this link specific. Yet Wolf can attain levels of depth of expression that seem to post-date his period; the long Andante of the F major (lasting 10'34) is a case in point. There is in fact an amazing variety in just this hour's worth, which acts as an excellent introduction to this composer. Two sets of booklet notes, one providing context for Wolf the man and one explicitly on the Symphonies, only add to one's enjoyment.

The first on the menu is the E flat, a three-movement conception of tight construction - particularly the first movement. Yet Wolf simultaneously maintains an air of the outdoor, of the Divertimento, quite a balancing act! The performance here, as elsewhere on the disc, is eminently stylish, with plenty of drama where appropriate. The Mozartian serenade-like second movement ('Allegretto') leads to a more robust finale.

The expressive sighs of the F major's first movement are most effective. More noteworthy still, however, are the tempo juxtapositions as the slow opening returns in the main body of the argument; daring for the time. The slow movement is perhaps more expressive than one might expect. The delicate use of a pair of flutes (around 8'50) is gorgeous. Interestingly, the finale is lively but not particularly jolly undercurrents have clearly been carried over form the long Andante.

A near-celebratory C major for the opening movement of the next symphony is clearly enjoyed by the Weimar players. The recording, too, helps with definition and, indeed, its clarity and spaciousness lends real meaning to the orchestra's departmental exchanges. Woodwind pairings delight again in the brief slow movement while a pair of Menuettos - this is the only work on the disc in four movements - provide much joy. The finale includes an element of opera buffo.

Finally, a D major essay. Its brevity perhaps reflects the jolly - no undercurrent this time - initial Allegro, although the 1'35 Andante includes more depth than its duration would seem to imply. The finale is an exuberant way to close a delightful disc. Recommended.


Colin Clarke

see also review by Jonathan Woolf



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