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
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