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Franz Xaver RICHTER (1709-1789)
Sinfonia in D, No. 53 (Trumpet) [12:03]
Sinfonie in D minor, No. 56 [11:25]*
Sinfonia in G minor, No. 29 [12:56]*
Sinfonia in D, No. 52 [10:18]
Sinfonie in F minor, No. 43 [15:04]*
*premiere recordings
London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert
rec. 11-12 April 2006, St Jude-on-the-Hill, London
CHANDOS CHAN 10386 [61:46] 



With this release, we see Chandos pushing past twenty discs in its enjoyable ‘Contemporaries of Mozart’ series, which has seen a number of premiere recordings; there are three on this disc. Richter was a member of the “Mannheim School”, moving to that city in 1747. Richter, though older than the other composers associated with that group, doesn’t appear to have gone in for their “Mannheim Rocket” and other such devices as wholeheartedly as others. As one would expect, not many of the hallmarks of the Mannheim School are in great evidence here. Richard Lawrence, in his very helpful liner notes, indicates that Richter thought such ploys to secure the esteem of the contemporary public in poor taste. Mozart mentions Richter - serving then as Kapellmeister at Strasbourg - in a letter to his father, stating that he “now lives very economically, for instead of forty bottles of wine a day he only swills about twenty.” Such dipsomania, however exaggerated, certainly didn’t cut down on Richter’s output, which, according to Lawrence, amounts to over eighty symphonies, thirty-nine masses, three Requiems and other pieces. 

The opening symphony, number 53 in D, certainly brings things off with a bang — its laudatory “trombe da guerra” and tympani give the piece a sound that is rather like Bach-meets-Haydn-meets-Royal Fireworks. The ending triple meter presto assai is one of my favourite new pieces. The symphony as a whole is greatly engaging and vigorous, and the London Mozart Players perform this with a wonderful clarity and energy. 

Symphony 56 reminds one often of the Sinfonia movements in Bach’s cantatas, only with the scoring of oboe and horn taking the place of the pipe organ continuo. The first movement Allegro con spirito brings us into more pensive stuff than the wonderfully gregarious and optimistic No. 53. In listening to these symphonias, one gets the sense that the slow movements are less the centrepieces of the work than a sort of pausing to rest in between the energetic outer movements. The overall tone of these slow central movements is light and airy, here with the No. 53 scored solely for strings and harpsichord continuo. In the Allegro molto finale, the violins move with occasionally brusque certainty over the paired horn and lower strings which urgently mark time, adding an almost frantic element. 

Symphony No. 29 opens with a wonderfully-wrought slow section that arrives at a descending figure. An anticipatory cadence then leads us into the Allegro section, which uses the descending phrase as material for an energetic fugue. This fugue ends in a way that keeps the listener still at the edge of the chair when the Andante second movement interrupts with its measured and refined pace. It’s as if the storminess of the symphonia had to stop in mid-drive for a pair of dignified pedestrians to cross the street. Then it tumbles forward again in the closing Presto movement, in triple meter, which seems if this disc is any fair indication to be a Richter trademark for his closing movements. 

The other premier recording is the No. 43 in F minor, which closes this disc. The opening section is rather terse, building gradually to an emphatic statement before quieting down with a brighter outlook in relative major. This movement lacks the immediate appeal of the other first movements, but this is quite enjoyable stuff nonetheless. The Andante grazioso’s writing is simple and uncluttered, with pleasing lines. Here, one again gets the sense that the slow central movements are seen less as a centrepiece and more as a palate-cleanser before the symphony gets busily back to business with the somewhat stern final movement. This is no great criticism, however — this music is wonderfully engaging and enjoyable, outgoing and erudite. 

The sound quality and performance found on this recording is up to the high standard you’d expect from Chandos. This disc has been a frequent guest in my car CD player as well as in my home system, and is recommended for those who enjoy Bach’s orchestral music. These pieces warrant more frequent performance on stage and the case for these pieces is extremely well put across by the London Mozart Players. 

David Blomenberg 




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