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Ignaz PLEYEL (1757-1831)
Symphony in B flat, B.125 (c.1782-4) [26:37]
Symphony in G, B.130 (1786) [28:34]
Flute Concerto in C, B.106 (1797) [23:52]
Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä/Patrick Gallois (flute, conductor)
rec. Suolahti Hall, Jyväskylä, Finland, 18-22 January 2010. DDD
NAXOS 8.572550 [79:15] 

Experience Classicsonline

Finally Naxos turn once more to Ignaz Pleyel's symphonies - their first and only previous recording came out in the last century (8.554696)! The tracklist B numbers refer to Rita Benton's thematic catalogue of Pleyel's works, published in 1977. By her reckoning, there are 48 known symphonies by Pleyel - in the range B.121 to B.161, the oft-quoted figure of 41 omitting to count the likes of 131A, 131B, 147A - which makes his a significant contribution to the Classical symphony, all the more so considering the fact that he wrote them between the late 1770s and the turn of the 19th century, after which he more or less gave up composing to concentrate on his substantial business empire. Forty-eight symphonies in twenty-five years might suggest a production-line mentality, but the Haydns, Mozart, the Stamitzes, Johann Vanhal, Josef Mysliveček and several others frequently showed that imagination often kept pace with stamina. In any case, Pleyel had a life that was long enough to ensure that many of his symphonies were written in his maturity - Mozart's first thirty, by comparison, were composed while he was still a child.
True, Pleyel did not blaze any trails in his music, and he never hesitated to re-score and pick-'n'-mix his works to make money - the Flute Concerto, for example, appeared simultaneously in a version for clarinet and another for cello. Even so, his music was extremely popular in his lifetime above all because it was always well crafted, melodious and original, with an abundance of memorable themes and surprising turns of direction - all of which is exemplified by these substantial Haydn-flavoured Symphonies. Moreover, there is little evidence in the Flute Concerto that "after about 1792 his talent seems to have diminished; his inventiveness waned and he occasionally succumbed to routine procedures", as Rita Benton rather cavalierly writes in the New Grove.
Though little known and widely unpronounceable outside Finland, the Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä is a very decent ensemble, with a vivid, robust, expressive sound, not to mention a mass of recordings to their credit, including many for Naxos under Gallois: they were splendid, for example, in a recent recording of Saint-Saëns' three Violin Concertos with Fanny Clamagirand (review). They are also versed in the demands of 18th century symphonic repertoire, having previously recorded three well-received volumes of Naxos's complete Haydn symphonies, also with Gallois, most recently volume 33 (review).
Sound quality in this recording is pretty good. There is at least one editing join, in the G major Symphony, but it is unobtrusive and in general the production is creditable - for example, unless otherwise specified by the composer, it is always nice to have plenty of silence between movements. The flute is a little strident at times, being comparatively closely miked, and Gallois's gasping, though unavoidable, is more audible than it need be.
The booklet notes are by Pleyel expert Allan Badley, as informative and well written as could be hoped for. Hairstyle-wise at least, the big photo of Patrick Gallois seems to be a decade or two out of date, although as a Frenchman he probably has enough je-ne-sais-quoi to get away with it.
If Naxos insist on keeping music lovers waiting another decade for the next batch of Pleyel's Symphonies, the anxious listener could do much worse than turn to the two volumes of his String Quartets op.2 they released a few years ago (see reviews of Volume 1, and Volume 2) - just as satisfying as the Symphonies. Incidentally, Pleyel's talent as a composer also rubbed off on his son Camille, a fine disc of whose piano music appeared last year on Gramola - see review.
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