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Baroque Bohemia and Beyond VII
Vojtěch Matyáš JÍROVEC (1763-1850)
Symphony in C major, Op.6 No.1 [24:51]
Franz Christoph NEUBAUER (1750-1795)
Symphony in B flat major, Op.8 No.6 (1793-94) [20:55]
Carl Ditters von DITTERSDORF (1739-1799)
Symphony in B flat major [18:31]
Czech Chamber Philharmonic/Petr Chromčák
rec. February 2015 and June 2012 (Dittersdorf), St Francis Church at the Convent of St Agnes of Bohemia
ALTO ALC1301 [64:58]

There’s a cryptic note on the back of the jewel case of this disc that states; ‘Please note “Winter Season” ALC1251 was not strictly Volume VII’. I mention this merely to point out that the disc under review is volume 7 and that anyone who has collected the series (Vols 1-3, Vol. 4, Vol. 5 (not reviewed here as yet), Vol. 6) should not be confused by any apparent previous mis-numbering.

There’s a sort of monothematic approach that has become clearer the more releases have appeared, and this latest entrant is no different: lesser-known Bohemian composers are represented by orchestral or symphonic works rare or new to disc. What I called in a previous volume – my words haunting me on the jewel case - ‘the wellspring of the Bohemian musical diaspora’ is represented here by Vojtěch Matyáš Jírovec and Franz Christian Neubauer. We’ve encountered Jírovec before in this series in the shape of his Symphony in F major. His four-movement Symphony in C major reinforces a debt to Haydn as early as the opening Adagio section of the first movement. What impresses, however conventional some of its handling, is the brio and rococo flourish of the writing, not least a genuinely pomposo Minuetto with resonant Czech horns to the fore as they engage in droll conversation with other of the orchestral sections. The finale is a touch heavy, though it’s difficult to determine quite whether that’s a thematic issue or an executant one.

Neubauer studied in Prague but soon joined the legion of émigré composers from his homeland seeking work in German-speaking lands. A succession of more-or-less brief engagements, some interrupted by war, culminated in his appointment of a position in the court of Lower Saxony where he worked with Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach. Indeed he succeeded Bach as Kapellmeister when he died in 1795 but, true to form, not for long, as Neubauer himself died later in the same year. His three-movement Symphony in B flat major comes from his earliest years at court in Lower Saxony, 1793-94. Its most ear-catching moments come in the central Cantabile movement, a fluent easy-going and rather charming affair, visiting the strings, winds, and horns in turn to allow them to demonstrate their prowess. Some droll ascending lines in the finale point to his compositional professionalism, and there’s a well-sprung pay-off at the end in what is Neubauer’s ‘Surprise’ Symphony.

This time there’s an interloper in the ranks. Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf shuffles in with his own Symphony in B flat major on the grounds not that he was in any sense Czech but that he died in Bohemia, in the town of Neuhof (now Nové Dvory) where he’d lived for the last decade of his life. It was composed in 1766 and known as Im Postzug or ‘In the Mail Train’ though as Peter Avis points out in his notes, possibly tongue in cheek, there were no mail trains at this time, or indeed trains, in the vicinity. Possibly, though, it was a nickname that had something to do with Cornelius Hermann von Ayrenhoff’s Im Postzug which was published in 1769? In any case, this is one of Dittersdorf’s best-known symphonic works, crisply written, finely structured, and full of good tunes and distribution of material. There’s also a deadpan wit to the finale. If one marks his inclusion as seemingly defiant of the series rationale, then at least one can enjoy this fine work.

Once again the Czech Chamber Philharmonic, a modern-instrument body, is in good - if very occasionally rather stolid - form under director Petr Chromacek, who has the measure of these three symphonies. This release doesn’t have too many surprises up its sleeve, just good, honest (largely) Bohemian fare.

Jonathan Woolf



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