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Cipriani POTTER (1792-1871)
Symphony No 1 in G minor (1826) [24:25]
Introduzione e Rondo (alla militaire) for Piano and Orchestra (1827) [19:08]
Cymbeline: Overture (1836) [15:21]
Claire Huangci (piano), BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Howard Griffiths
rec. April-May 2019, BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff
CPO 555 274-2 [59:00]

Londoner Cipriani Potter is a figure for music histories. He is one of those figures alongside Sterndale Bennett who peopled nineteenth century Britain while it was supposedly a “land without music”. His teachers included William Crotch and Joseph Wlfl; the latter of whom is also enjoying reborn attention at the hands of CPO.

The First Symphony was written after some years in Vienna continuing his studies with Beethoven’s endorsement. Back in London, he attracted praise for his symphonies and the 24-minute First was among these. A four-movement work, it wastes no time in establishing itself with some crushing Beethovenian rhetoric and with buoyant fast passages which balance anxiety with celebration. There’s a temperate and freshly imagined Andante, a dignified but not rigorous Minuetto and a flighty finale, lightly orchestrated at first and then heavily accented.

The 20-minute Introduzione e Rondo for piano and orchestra is a cheery piece, written in the year of Beethoven’s death. Its light-fingered witty display does not subjugate musical freshness. It’s the first of eight works by Potter for piano and orchestra of which three from the 1830s are piano concertos. You might think in terms of Chopin’s non-Concerto works for piano and orchestra: Variations on "L ci darem la mano" (1827) and Krakowiak (1828). The Potter piece is utterly charming and devastatingly fresh. Claire Huangci does not disappoint.

There are three Shakespeare-based overtures from Potter’s very prolific 1830s: Antony and Cleopatra (1835) and The Tempest overture (1837). The Overture to Cymbeline (CPO favour ‘Cymbelene’) is heard on this disc. The writing here has a Mendelssohnian accent and when it becomes emphatic has you thinking about Schumann. It’s very accomplished and at times there is quite delicate writing (as at 2:57). This does not preclude some volcanic writing familiar from the outer movements of the First Symphony.

These three works have a convincing support act from the liner essay by one of the most knowledgeable of music-writers, Meinhard Saremba. I hope that we will hear more from him.

This disc looks like a fierily encouraging start of another series from CPO. Griffiths has worked on such projects before. All those BBC Radio 3 broadcasts (with Hilary Davan Wetton, John Lubbock and Roy Goodman and before them David Littaur) during Fairest Isle year (1995) have laid the mulch for a Potter revival. If you cannot wait for more of the symphonies then you may be able to track down the 1989 vintage Unicorn-Kanchana CD of Potter’s Symphonies 8 and 10 played with great skill and panache by the Milton Keynes Chamber Orchestra conducted by Hilary Davan Wetton. In more recent years the Seventh symphony was recorded by ClassicO and Douglas Bostock alongside Sterndale Bennett’s Symphony in G minor.

Momentous Beethovenian writing coupled with a well recorded freshness that takes this music beyond the work of a mere shadow.

Rob Barnett

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