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Friedrich SCHNEIDER (1786-1853)
Symphony No.17 in C minor [23.42]
Violin Concerto in D minor [21.30]
Symphony No.1 op11 in C minor [32.30]
Hiro Kurosaki (violin), Cappella Coloniensis/Sigiswald Kuijken
rec. 2002, Paterskirche, Kempen, Germany
CPO 999 932-2 [77.53]

It is good to have this recording back in the catalogue, not simply because of the opportunity to hear a rarely heard composer, but for the admirable (if slightly unusual) performances of Mendelssohn.

The opportunity to hear Schneider’s symphony will clearly be the draw for many listeners, for it is accomplished and enjoyable. Schneider was a slightly younger contemporary of Beethoven, yet outlived Mendelssohn. As an educator (and defender of Beethoven’s work) he was an influential figure in his time. As conductor, pianist, composer and excellent administrator, largely based in Dessau, he had considerable influence. His Symphony No.17 (of 23) reveals a keen ear for orchestral colour, a firm sense of structure (Schumann compared him with a careful architect, ever attentive to detail) and a sense of progression. Parts of the symphony show the influence of Beethoven, but the structure follows a firmly classical model (the third movement is a minuet). Overall, it is an attractive work, here performed with distinction, with a certain lightness and clarity, but it pushes no boundaries, has few memorable themes, and frightens no horses.

The pairing with Mendelssohn rather highlights the differences. There is a distance between high competence and genius, and here one is very aware of the gap. Kurosaki and Kuijken give us a fascinating performance of the Violin Concerto, emphasising its Classical roots. This is very far from a modern, upholstered sound world. The violin tone has a leanness, but also a sensitivity to authentic performing practice. What is striking is the clarity of phrasing, with no lack of momentum or light.

The highlight is perhaps Kuijken’s performance of the First Symphony. With this orchestra (Germany’s oldest period orchestra), he achieves a wonderful lightness, delicate and precise phrasing coupled with a sense of music taking flight – similar to the qualities exhibited in his glorious recordings of Haydn’s ‘Paris Symphonies’ on the old Virgin label. He emphasises the Classical roots of Mendelssohn’s work with extraordinary insight.

Notes and recording quality are both excellent.

Michael Wilkinson

Previous review (2004): Johan van Veen

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