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Georg Joseph VOGLER (1749-1814)
Symphony in D minor (1782) [19:14]
Ballet Suite No. 1 (arr. Eugen Bodart) [10:01]
Symphony in G (1779) [9:01]
Athalie: Overture (1786) [3:20]
Hamlet: Overture (1778) [10:50]
Ballet Suite No. 2 (arr. Eugen Bodart) [9:27]
Erwin und Elmire: Overture (1775) [5:22]
London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert
rec. St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, January 2008. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN10504 [67:19]
Experience Classicsonline

Richard Lawrence's program note for this album points out that Vogler held, among his various musical postings, that of assistant Kapellmeister in Mannheim beginning in 1776. The Mannheim connection might suggest a musical kinship with Mozart, and certainly the standard Classical attributes - sharply etched contours, virile harmonic motion, an "operatic" forward drive alternating with a dignified, spacious lyricism - are present. But, Vogler's sudden, explosive outbursts and his brass underlinings call Beethoven more strongly to mind.

It's good to hear this music, and to hear it so well played - the London Mozart Players constitute an estimable and accomplished period-practice ensemble. But, while the instrumental proportions heard here may well be "authentic", my modern ears kept wanting more strings. In the D minor symphony that opens the program, the firm, compact tuttis are fine, but more players would have allowed more varied, shapely renderings of the quieter passages and the faster-moving accompaniment figures; as it is, they sound a bit scrawny. The symphony itself is engaging enough, with the off-beat punctuations from the batteria in the third (last) movement clearly pointing the way to Beethoven.

The other symphony on the program is actually a tripartite overture - think Mozart 32 - and, despite the pensive demeanour of its central Andante, it's basically cheerful in character.

Of the three overtures, the bustling, weighty overture to the Singspiel, Erwin und Elmire, probably best tallies with most listeners' idea of a Classical overture. The brief curtain-raiser to the opera Athalie is tautly dramatic; that from the Hamlet incidental music begins effectively, with stark open fifths, but churns a bit too melodramatically for most of its 10:50 duration.

The two Ballet Suites, arranged from Vogler's various ballets by Eugen Bodart in the 1950s, turn out to be the best things on the program. Suite 1 is especially fetching: for all its classical rigor, it's still recognizable as dance music here, with perky articulations pointing the rhythms delightfully. The graceful, triple-meter lyricism of the third (Larghetto) movement, however, is, again, not ideally served by the overly "windy" sonority. The good-humoured second suite is heartier in spirit than the first. The opening Gigue brings around its principal hunting-horn motifs one time too many, but the oboe solo in the Menuetto grazioso is lyrical and poised.

The sound is par for Chandos: full-orchestra cutoffs reveal a pronounced overhang which, however, seems not to obscure detail or cause unnecessary congestion.

Stephen Francis Vasta 



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