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Hokanson/Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra


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Product details

  • Audio CD (9 Sept. 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: MDG
  • ASIN: B000007TQZ
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 255,328 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Overture For Orchestra Op. 5 'Dionys' In F Major: 1. Adagio grave - 2. Allegro agitato - Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra
2. Symphony No. 2 Op. 11 In D Major: Allegro moderato - Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra
3. Symphony No. 2 Op. 11 In D Major: Andante - Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra
4. Symphony No. 2 Op. 11 In D Major: Scherzo. Presto - Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra
5. Concerto For Piano And Orchestra Op. 1 In F Sharp Minor: Allegro ma non troppo - Leonard Hokanson/Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra
6. Concerto For Piano And Orchestra Op. 1 In F Sharp Minor: Larghetto con moto - Leonard Hokanson/Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra
7. Concerto For Piano And Orchestra Op. 1 In F Sharp Minor: Allegro moderato - Leonard Hokanson/Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra

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Review

I wish I could be more positive about Norbert Burgmüller except to say that he had considerable promise as a composer before dying at age 26. The three works here are illustrative of his potential, his shortcomings and his sudden death. The piano concerto and overture have moments of inspiration, but the symphony is merely diverting before it suddenly and jarringly ends. I'll take the concerto first. It benefits from three innovative twists: the fascinating key of F sharp minor, a slow movement which has an extensive cello solo, and a refusal to switch to the major in the stormy final coda. The opening, with the piano calming down a grandiose Sturm-und-Drang orchestra, foreshadows Brahms first concerto. The larghetto with its graceful cello calls to mind Tchaikovsky. Maybe the most remarkable thing about the piece is how little trace one feels of the shadow of Beethoven. On the other hand, there is a lot of Schubert. There is even more Schubert in the symphony, which feels like three unrelated parts joined together. The first movement is a lovely pastoral which comes close to quoting Schubert in its development but lacks the catchy tunes of the other, better composer. The andante bears an obvious resemblance to the andante from Schubert's last symphony: a solo theme for the oboe, delivered over walking-pace string accompaniment. Then comes the scherzo, which is charming but ends unexpectedly in a minor key. Since Burgmüller died before composing the finale, we ll never know exactly what he meant by this symphony, which as is begins in a bucolic D major but ends in a surprising state of agitation. It should be noted that, according to the booklet's translation, He did not work out all of the third movement either. Robert Schumann instrumented [sic] the sketches. Schumann no doubt also knew about the overture, which might be my favorite piece here. Still, Burgmüller was not really capable of writing memorable tunes, which is why his music often sounds like Schubert without the depth or memorable substance. Then again, Schubert lived to 31. Burgmüller didn't even have that good fortune. This is a reissue of a 1996 recording which sounds perfectly good; the very good pianist, Leonard Hokanson, is very naturally balanced against the orchestra. A more incisive performance of the symphony on period instruments can be heard on Carus (Hofkapelle Stuttgart, Frieder Bernius), coupled with the composer s other (completed) symphony. If you re interested in the piano concerto, or you collect such early-romantic byways, this is one of the more interesting ones, though it is probably not essential. --Brian Reinhart - MusicWeb

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. A. Peacock on 20 July 2005
Burgmuller has been described as a Rhenish Schubert and was greatly admired by Schumann amongst others. This record, presenting three of his few extant works, amply displays why he was so highly regarded. Burgmuller's voice is primarily a lyrical one, hence the comparisons with Schubert, but a more direct influence is the Romantic chromaticism of his teacher, Louis Spohr.
On the evidence of the works presented here it is easy to see his appeal to Schumann (the urgency of the first subject exposition in the Overture even suggests Schumann's "Manfred"). All three works (though perhaps the overture to a lesser degree) are born of the brooding and atmospheric voice of German early Romanticism. The symphony, in particular, has a distinctive tone and some very characteristic writing for horn and woodwind, which give it a definite pastoral feel. Listening to this symphony after his first essay in C minor, shows a more personal voice emerging and it is a shame that he died before committing the finale to paper.
The piano concerto stands out among contemporary concerti for its lack of bravura display and the integration of the solo instrument with the orchestra. The orchestral introduction perhaps suggests more than the first movement eventually delivers and the finale is the weakest movement on the disc, but the work definitely repays repeated listening.
The recording is warm and mellow, which suits Burgmuller's compositional voice, and the performances are extremely sympathetic. It is a record I have often returned to and shouldn't disappoint anyone interested in the neglected shadows of this period in German symphonism.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
An Engaging Surprise 17 Jan. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Every now and then one encounters the case of a rare gem of a work that has been completely neglected both in the concert hall and on recordings. This applies to two of the pieces on this enterprising CD. The symphony and the overture by Burgmuller (less of a household name could not be imagined) are assured in design and orchestration, and full of memorable melodic phrases. Individuality is perhaps not great -- there are echoes of many other more famous composers, but any lover of romantic orchestral music is sure to enjoy these pieces. Warmly recommended.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Modestly rewarding music in decent if not exceptional performances 21 Jan. 2012
By G.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Norbert Burgmüller (1810-1836) was praised by Schumann, and his early death deeply lamented and compared to the early death of Schubert. His body of work is small, but there are some rather skillfully written and moderately inspired pieces among them. Burgmüller's style may perhaps be compared to that of early Schumann and Weber, but is relatively conservatively classical - none of the works on this disc really suggests that he had yet arrived at any kind of personal mode of expression yet, but it is all well put together and some of the thematic material is very worthwhile.

The piano concerto dates from 1829 and was designated "op.1". It is traditional in structure and traditionally scored, though there are many imaginative touches and interesting ways of linking his various motifs. Though definitely challenging to play, it is not really a showcase virtuoso bravura piece. It would have helped if the thematic material itself was more distinguished, of course, but overall this is a mildly enjoyable work if hardly a forgotten masterpiece. The Overture, probably intended for his uncompleted opera Dionys, lacks a really strong profile - it is not a bad work, but it certainly doesn't distinguish itself from the many similar pieces composed at the time.

The second symphony was left incomplete at the composer's death - we are given the three extant movements here, and the work ends a little abruptly with the scherzo. The substantial opening movements uses its themes for all they are worth, and would perhaps have benefited from a little pruning. The second movement is rather sparkling and life-affirming in character, and overall appealing, whereas the dramatic scherzo - though it contains some clever tricks - is rather inconsequential (one feels that it could have served as an excellent bridge to a finale, but that was never to be, of course).

The performances by the Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra under Gernot Schmalfuss are generally decent, but seem to lack ideal clarity of focus and momentum, though Leonard Hokanson does a decent job in the concerto. The recorded sound lacks a little focus as well. Overall, then, this is a mildly interesting and enjoyable release, recommended to fans of early romanticism, but it failed to convince me that MDG had hit upon real, hidden treasure here.
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