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]
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.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
Always well crafted, melodious and original, with an abundance of memorable
themes and surprising turns of direction.