Ignaz PLEYEL (1757 – 1831)
Symphonie Concertante in B flat (1791) [21:11]; Symphonie Concertante in A (1792) [27:33]; Violin Concerto in D (early 1790s) [30:35]
David Perry, Isabella Lippi (violins), Victoria Chiang (viola)
Baltimore Chamber Orchestra/Markand Thakar
rec 12, 17 February, 28-29 May 2008, Kraushaar Auditorium, Towson, Maryland, USA. DDD
NAXOS 8.570320 [79:33]

Occasionally I find myself thinking, “oh no, not another disk of music by so–and–so’s lesser known, and probably lesser, contemporary.” Happily, this was not one of those occasions. Here are three works which are most welcome visitors to my home.

In two fairly fastish movements, the Symphonie Concertante in B flat, which is basically a Concerto for violin and viola, is a lovely affair. It is joyful, full of good humour, and a delight from beginning to end. There’s also a rather nice quirkiness to some of the themes.

The slightly later Symphonie Concertante in A is for two violins and orchestra and is a more conservative composition. It doesn’t have the immediate appeal of the other work, nor does it share that work’s quirkiness in its thematic material. That said, it’s still a lovely work, with much to enjoy. I wonder if the decision to write the work in three movements might have had something to do with Pleyel’s straightforwardness? After the minor key middle section of the finale there is the most fabulously enjoyable romp of a coda.

Although a pupil of Haydn, the Violin Concerto in D has more than its fair share of Mozartean fingerprints about it. A long first movement, which includes a big cadenza, has a couple of good tunes, the slow movement also includes a cadenza but, in truth, both movements are slightly overlong by a couple of minutes. Pleyel is neither a Haydn nor a Beethoven so his grasp on form isn’t quite as secure as theirs.

This is attractive music, however, and although it isn’t quite in the same class as his contemporaries it does please and entertain. The recording here is very good, even if the soloists are somewhat forward and a little too far in front of the orchestra, but the balance isn’t bad, one can always hear the band no matter how close the soloist is to the microphone.

I would recommend this to anyone interested in the music of this period who needs a rest from the angst and problems of the music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Also, we mustn’t forget that we need figures like Pleyel to remind us just how great Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven were!

Bob Briggs