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Heidelberg Philharmonic Orchestra
conducted by Thomas Kalb

Vanhal: Four Symphonies

CD Review

Vanhal’s symphonic credentials were a factor of Viennese musical life although he has disappeared in the shadow of such illustrious contemporaries as Haydn and Mozart. Still the works on this well-filled though dully recorded CD are ample testimony to his melodic and structural skill. All but one of the symphonies are in four-movement form , thus showing the advanced nature of the composer’s train of musical thought. I greatly enjoyed the first D minor, which is full of bubbling melodies and includes some interesting contrapuntal techniques in the final Presto.

The Symphony in A major is slightly more strait-jacketed, although the length of the movements show no diminishing in scale. The German orchestra sound rather unenthusiastic in certain key passages but that is undoubtedly due to the modern instruments being used in this performance. ‘Sturm und Drang’ Haydn came to mind when listening to the Symphony in G minor, indeed that same minor key is full of the storm and stress that was characterizing Viennese music in those times. This is a seminal work and includes much that is adventerous and forward-looking. The beauty of the Andante cantabile is noteworthy and the vivacity of the Finale is also exciting.

The F major symphony is unremarkable but still entertaining to listen to. I was not especially agreeable to Thomas Kalb’s occasionally heavy-handed interpretations of the works but the performances do carry some weight and tradition. The notes are detailed and scholarly and there are also short biographies of the artists involved. As mentioned earlier, the timing is economical although Mathias Bamert’s romantically attractive Chandos versions of some Vanhal symphonies are even more inspired. Koch’s presentation is adequate.

Performance: 65%

Sound: 70%

Copyright © Gerald Fenech, March 3rd 1999


Koch Schwann 3-6715-2
Heidelberg Philharmonic Orchestra / Thomas Kalb

Symphony in D minor    Allegro-Andante Arioso-Menuetto-Presto
Symphony in A major    Allegro moderato-Cantabile-Finale prestissimo
Symphony in G minor    Allegro moderato-Andante cantabile-Menuetto-Finale allegro
Symphony in F major    Allegro-Siciliano Andante-Menuetto-Presto

DDD                                  Playing time: 67m
Recorded: 1994, Heidelberg              Producer: Guenter Appenheimer



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