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Friedrich WITT (1770-1836)
Orchestral Works

Symphony No.6 Sinfonie torque (published 1808-09) [24.39]
Concerto for flute and orchestra (c.1806) [[22.46]
Symphony No.9 (published 1818) [26.14]
Susanne Barner (flute)
Hamburg Symphony Orchestra/Johannes Moesus
Recorded March 2004, recording location unspecified
MDG 329 1299-2 [74.07]

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If Witt’s name is know at all these days it’s probably still only in default. It was his "Jena" symphony that was briefly believed to be an early work of Beethoven’s. If anything, though, Witt’s muse was Mozartian. Take a listen to the opening of his Sixth Symphony (the turque) and you’ll hear a battery of Il Seraglio percussion and the usual panoply of Turkish instrumentation to be expected in a work of this kind, not least the piccolo. Brisk, clever, corralled along expected stylistic norms and perhaps somewhat repetitious, it nevertheless displays a certain characteristic brio. His slow movements, for instance, are never, on the evidence of this disc, remotely profound or serious – and don’t pretend to aim for those qualities. That of the Sixth is cleverly done to allow lyric wind lines to emerge over a string pizzicato base. The scherzo is a real charmer, though, a ländler with a strong role for a solo cello-led theme à la Viennois.

The Flute Concerto shows more Mozartian affiliations and it offers plenty of opportunities for capricious display – all negotiated with considerable panache by Susanne Barner. The solemn horns in the slow movement and the lyric line generally rather remind one of The Magic Flute fused with the unfolding lines of, say, the slow movement of Mozart’s K218 Violin Concerto whilst the finale has a warm-hearted – and unexpected – polonaise through which the soloist nimbly and agilely cavorts. A most attractive work.

The companion symphony is the ninth, published in 1818. It too pays its Mozartian bows, most clearly to Don Giovanni though there’s plenty of tensely argued writing, and some fine suspensions. In the slow movement once again we find wind-led lyric voices as well as important roles for solo cello and first horn, all of which Witt unfolds with great character and elegant control. A renewed highlight in his Minuet – this has charm written all over it – and the finale is dashing, deft and contains a fugato passage to add interest and build tension, though with no academic posturing.

Under Johannes Moesus the Hamburg Symphony plays with imagination and persuasive corporate colour, and they bring these seldom-heard works to life with real panache.

Jonathan Woolf

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