An astonishing first movement sets off a fabulously energetic set of some of Vanhal's best symphonies, played by probably the top period instrument band in Germany, Concerto Koln. This disc is the most vital performance of Vanhal's works I have in my collection, far better in interpretation and recording than any others I know of, and the equal of many of the best recordings of 18th century symphonies, Haydn's and Mozart's included. Cliche or not, this recording is truly a classic of the gramophone and perhaps the finest representation of the phenomenon of the 18th century 'Sturm and Drang' (Storm and Stress) music. This movement was centred in Austro-Hungary in Vienna and not far from that city in the town of Eisenstadt, home of Joseph Haydn. Only the great Haydn's middle period symphonies surpass Vanhal in this style of composition. Vanhal's symphonies are by turns stormy, nervous, lyrical and tender. Vanhal's energy takes over where C P E Bach left off and gives Mozart's Don Giovanni a run for his money in drama and energy. The minor keyed symphonies, particularly the D minor, G minor and A minor are anxious, nervy pieces that are memorable enough to leave you with earworms! Listen how the second symphony starts off slyly, gradually creeps up on you, prods you playfully in the ribs, then runs off round the park poking fun at anyone who gets in the way! The third symphony on the disc, Sinfonia Comista, is different from the rest, a grand striding piece, swaggering with a Mozartian confidence in the first movement called 'La speranza' (Hope). There is again a tender second movement - as the excellent sleeve note says, 'Il sospirare e languire' - ' longingly, sighingly, languidly'. The final movement starts as a Haydnesque lamentation but moves quickly to 'L'allegrzza' - 'gaiety, cheerfulness'. The comprehensive and scholarly, but by no means dull, sleeve notes by Vanhal's cataloguer Paul R Bryan describe the symphonies far better than I ever could, but I can't help but enthuse about this stimulating and uplifting cd. I can add little to other reviewers words - I agree with them wholeheartedly that this is an essential recording of Vanhal's symphonies, full of freshness, insight and vigour. It is indeed a cornerstone recording not to be missed! This recording exists in three releases - go for the original cd issue or the Das Alte Werk release with the tilted still lfe painting on the cover. Both have Bryan's excellent sleeve notes. If you like Mozart and Haydn, you will find this cd a great and rewarding investment. Finally, do not attempt to drive or operate machinery if you put this on!
3 people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?