JOSEPH WÖLFL: The Symphonies = G Minor Op. 40; C Major Op. 41; Grand Duo in D Minor for Fortepiano and Cello Op. 31 – Pratum Integrum Orchestra – Caro Mitis

by | Mar 4, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

JOSEPH WÖLFL: The Symphonies = G Minor Op. 40; C Major Op. 41; Grand Duo in D Minor for Fortepiano and Cello Op. 31 – Pratum Integrum Orchestra – Caro Mitis Multichannel SACD CM 0022005, 63:20 **** [Distr. by Albany]:

This Russian label and the highly-skilled young period-instrument orchestra Pratum Integrum continue to bring us unusual early and Classical period music in perfectionist hi-res surround form. The two Wolfl symphonies here are both receiving the world premiere recordings.  The composer is known in music history as Beethoven’s rival – they had a sort of classical “cutting contest” which was judged a draw, but there were creative connections between the two.  Among other things, Wolfl dedicated his three Op. 6 piano sonatas to Beethoven.

Musically Wolfl was closer to Mozart and Haydn than Beethoven. He had studied with both Leopold Mozart and Michael Haydn (Josef’s brother).  Wolfl frequently performed as a pianist – both playing his own works and he was known to play Mozart beautifully. He had huge hands. Wolfl’s G Minor Symphony is dedicated to Cherubini and is in four movements. He works with short themes, often many of them overlapping in fast movements. His special quality is one of unpredictability; the listener never quite knows what to expect next. The Andante movement of the G Minor is a strong example of this: it takes what at first seems an ordinary little dance tune and suddenly enters a forte section with loud timpani, trumpets and horns emphasizing what sound like giant footsteps. As a matter of fact, Wolfl really loves the tympani, and uses it in all the movements of his symphonies along with the brass (Mozart seldom used either in his minor key symphonies). This gives them a sort of audiophile appeal not heard in many works of this period.

The Grand Duo is presented as the “bonus selection” on the SACD. Written during the same period as the symphonies, it is a lovely and melodic work, and the blend of fortepiano and cello is just right, both musically and sonically.

– John Sunier

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