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Carl STAMITZ (1745-1801)
Symphony in D minor Op.15, 3 (pub.1773) [11:44]
Symphony in E flat major (pub. 1776) [18:01]
Symphony in E minor Op.15, 2 (pub. 1776) [17:52]
Symphony in F major “La Chasse” [11:08]
L’arte del mondo/Werner Ehrhardt
rec. Bayer Kulturhaus, Leverkusen, dates not given
CPO 777 526-2 [59:04]

Experience Classicsonline

Carl Stamitz wrote over 50 symphonies in a career which saw him reach heights of fame and popularity in his lifetime. The lack of recordings of these works to be found in catalogues today can be traced back to a damning statement made about the Stamitz brothers by one W.A. Mozart, and the loss of his autograph papers after his death. The works of Carl Stamitz which survive are those which were printed and published, in the case of the works on these discs for performance at fashionable Parisian ‘Concerts spirituels’, the lack of acceptance to which may in part have lead to Mozart’s grumpy remarks about his more successful contemporaries.

These symphonies are very much a product of their time, pandering to the demands of audiences who would have been delighted with exciting ostinati and crescendi, hunting horns and a mixture of affect and effect in the soft and slow, loud and fast contrasts. Today these works are inevitably compared with those of Mozart and Haydn, but on their own terms they have a great deal to offer. Charming and direct, the central Andante movements are often witty and fun, like that of the D minor Symphony Op.15, 3 with its walking pizzicato strings, the little melodic ornaments of the Symphony in E flat and muted delicacy of that in the Symphony in E minor Op.15, 2. Outer movements are rousing and energetic but full of surprises. Have a listen to 16 to 26 seconds into the Prestissimo of the Symphony in D minor Op.15, 3 – after an opening which arguably has elements of Vivaldi, I hear Beethoven in some of those little inner phrases. The Allegro con spirito which opens the Symphony in E flat major is full of catchy syncopations, and the last movement Un poco presto, is that in a fast 3 beat, or 2, or 4? I think I know, but the composer might just be wrong-footing us all the way. The Symphony in E minor Op.15, 2 is another remarkably entertaining work, starting out with a refined sense of mystery and taking off on entirely different paths, and with the added colour of two flutes this is a symphony with plenty of secrets to be revealed. The last Symphony in F major has nicely prominent parts for two clarinets and is nicknamed ‘La chasse’ for its energetic and galloping final movement. The horn parts might have been expected to be a little more prominent, but the natural horns used here balance more with the rest of the orchestra rather than leaping over the strings and drowning everyone out.

There is another disc of Carl Stamitz’s symphonies on the Chandos label: CHAN 9358, with the London Mozart Players directed by Matthias Bamert. This is a somewhat bigger-boned recording, the larger orchestra creating a fatter sound and the period feel only really pointed out by the addition of a harpsichord as continuo, something not used by L’arte del mondo. The symphony La Chasse is also different, the one in D major rather than the one in F on the present disc, so the Chandos recording can be seen more as a companion than a competitor. With fine performances and a very good recording, this CPO disc is a welcome release, showing us a strong side to a rather neglected name.

Dominy Clements




























































































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