The Belgian violinist
and musicologist François Joseph Fétis (1784–1871) once commented:
“The music of [Paul] Wranitzky was in fashion when it was new
because of his natural melodies and brilliant style. He treats
the orchestra well, especially in symphonies. I recall that,
in my youth, his works held up very well in comparison with
those of Haydn. Their premature abandonment of today has been
for me a source of astonishment.”
Being an exact contemporary
of Mozart, 2006 was also the 250th anniversary of
his birth, and 2008 will mark the 200th anniversary
of his death. He was all but overlooked in the past year given
the dominance of Mozart upon the musical scene. However it is
to be hoped that he will grab some more attention in the future.
Some indication that this might happen is indicated by two recent
written accounts of his work becoming available.
This disc contains
two of Paul Wranitzky’s most involving symphonies. Bohemian
in origin, Wranitzky moved to Vienna where, along with his brother
Anton, he quickly established a reputation as a competent and
colourful composer. He writes in the high Viennese style, and
his melodies have a certain brio and swagger about them. Only
occasionally does his writing seem a touch formulaic compared
with the inventiveness of Mozart. Although it is tempting to
linger on the comparison given that the two men knew and respected
each other, it is fruitless to do so. If one is searching for
comparisons far better are the models of Haydn and Dittersdorf.
The latter’s “Symphony of five nations” might in some respects
be a kind of blueprint for the Grande sinfonie, op. 31.
The programme is one of war, tumult, attack and defence, all
of which are clearly articulated in Wranitzky’s score as it
charts the path from C minor to blazing C major.
given by the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover under conductor
Howard Griffiths convinces of the symphony’s power and mastery
of structure. True, there is some reliance upon the march, but
given the subject matter this might hardly have been avoided.
Griffiths injects plenty of punch and passion into the work.
Listening on a stereo CD player and not SACD, much of Wranitzky’s
care with orchestral balance still comes across as having been
attentively observed, as has his fondness for interweaving string
and wind lines. There are moments of genuinely arresting originality
that surpass anything found in Beethoven’s rather lame-duck
“Wellington’s Victory”, for a start. Take the bass drum and
timpani cannon fire in the third movement as but one example,
all of which is captured with ample atmosphere in this no-nonsense
The D major symphony,
op. 52, by comparison should be counted as one of Wranitzky’s
more ordinary works in the genre, having no grand programme
to fulfil. It is upbeat and festive in mood from the first.
The third movement shows an affinity to Haydn’s London symphonies,
though contrasts of material and a certain rustic character
find their way into the music also. Exactly how memorable you’ll
find this music in long run I can’t say, but there is no doubting
its ability to draw you in and involve one fully as it is being
a momentarily interesting composer whose symphonies form a useful
link between those of Haydn, Mozart and the young Beethoven.
They are given committed advocacy here, and supported by usefully
detailed notes from Bert Hagels. Those keen to know or hear
more are directed to the links and literature below.
Symphonies Opp. 11,
31 and 36: London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert (Chandos
Wranitzky Project website
David Wyn Jones: The Symphony in Beethoven’s
Vienna. Cambridge UP, 2006. 231pp. Hardback. ISBN: 0-521-86261-2