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Stamitz sys 5553442
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Carl STAMITZ (1745-1801)
Le Jour Variable
Symphony Op 15/III in D minor (KaiS. 24) (1776) [12:45]
Symphony Op 2/III in G major (KaiS. 3) (1768) [14:59]
Symphony Op 6/II in E-flat major (KaiS. 5) (1771) [12:45]
Grand Pastoral Symphony in G[D] major Le Jour Variable (La Promenade Royale) (KaiS. 32) (1772) [24:51]
Kölner Akademie/Michael Alexander Willens
rec. 6-8 December 2019, Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Cologne, Germany
CPO 555 344-2 [65:39]

Two of the Stamitz family members, father Johann and son Carl, each wrote many symphonies. Their influence was felt not only in their hometown of Mannheim but in Paris too. Their demand for dynamic extremes, including the famous Mannheim crescendo, for precision and for virtuoso standards from wind and brass as well as strings, impressed Mozart and Haydn, among others. The comparative neglect of the Mannheim School should not put off the collector. The symphonies performed here, and the many others by Richter, Beck, Cannabich and Johann Stamitz, only need lively performances to gain admirers. One can always echo the opinion of Mozart’s father Leopold: “To judge by the Stamitz Symphonies which have been engraved in Paris … these are nothing but noise … a hodgepodge, with here and there a good idea … but in the wrong place.” The Kölner Akademie under the direction of Michael Alexander Willens make a very fine case for a revised opinion.

Carl Stamitz composed over fifty symphonies, many of them in sets of three or six published throughout his life. Fritz Kaiser’s attempt at a detailed catalogue is apparently incomplete but it does at least contain all four of the symphonies on this disc. Stamitz was a member of the Mannheim Court Orchestra before leaving to become a touring virtuoso violinist and composer. He seems to have achieved success, though by the end of his life he was in so much debt that his effects, including manuscripts, were sold off to pay the bills. Much was lost, and even the music that survived is not always in a performable state without intensive editing.

The four symphonies recorded here are the result of conductor Michael Alexander Willens’s considerable research. The detailed booklet notes describe his work on the sources. There cannot be much doubt that collectors of the “other” classical composers will welcome this disc. The three works with opus numbers are very obviously products of the Mannheim school, and none the worse for that. They lack profundity but they have vitality in spades. The longer and more grandly named Grand Pastoral Symphony traces a royal outing in a series of descriptive movements startlingly ahead of their time. We have morning music, a storm, a dark night and, at the end, a hunt. Two hornists of the Kölner Akademie meet unfailingly the demands in the latter, but also throughout.

This issue is extremely well documented in German and English, and beautifully recorded by Deutschlandfunk engineers. One can only hope that the same team will be able to record a few more works from this little-recorded repertoire.

Dave Billinge

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