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Christian CANNABICH (1731-1798)
Symphony in G major   (1760) [19:47]
Symphony in A major   (c.1762) [11:57]
Symphony in E flat major (c.1770) [13:55]
Symphony in C major   (c.1770) [10:01]
Symphony in D major   (c.1770) [11:09]
London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert
rec. 24-25 October 2005, St Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, London
CHANDOS CHAN 10379 [66:49]
 


Christian Cannabich was one of the various composers who worked at the court of Mannheim during the 1760s and 1770s. Musical life there was such that the Elector’s orchestra gained a reputation as the best in the world, and Cannabich was the musical director. Mozart was among those who heard the ensemble, when he visited the court while en route for Paris in 1777. After hearing a symphony by Cannabich, possibly that in E flat major, he wrote back to his father Leopold: ‘If only we had clarinets too. You cannot imagine the glorious effect of a symphony with flutes, oboes and clarinets.’
 
And it is true that the élan of this music makes a special effect, again and again from one piece to the next. Cannabich is a master of the art of orchestral technique, employing it to maximum effect. The balancing of the ensemble is skilfully handled, and enhanced in these spirited performances by Matthias Bamert and the London Mozart Players. The recorded sound, moreover, plays its full part in creating the intensity of a live performances through the loudspeakers.
 
The early G major Symphony has a three movement construction, whereas all the others collected here have just three. They were probably written a decade or more later, by which time Cannabich had decided not to include a minuet movement. On this evidence he was probably wise, since so much of the fast movement has the directness of dance rhythms. The slow movements can be the highlights, however, with their appealingly graceful line.
 
The planning of this collection is carefully considered, since each symphony places the spotlight on different combinations of wind instruments, this the importance of clarinets in the E flat work. The writing for horns in the G major Symphony is sometimes thrilling, while the A major has a pleasing sensitivity of line in its central Andante. That said, however, the whole programme does tend to add up to rather less than the sum of its parts, at least of one symphony after another is heard. It is best to choose just one at a time, perhaps.
 
Like many of the Mannheim composers, Cannabich is strong on technique but relatively weaker on inspiration. The finest aspect of the music lies in its ease of orchestral discipline, but there is a tendency towards short repetitive phrases which can result in a chronic, self-defeating short-windedness. Even so, this remains a most worthwhile enterprise, with high production standards as we have come to expect of Chandos, and a well written accompanying essay from Richard Lawrence.
 
Terry Barfoot
 

 



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