Paul Wranitzky wrote his "Grand Characteristic [i.e. "descriptive"] Symphony for the Peace with the French Republic" in 1797, in the ripest Viennese classical style. It's a hoot. The movements include a "March of the English, Prussians, and Austrians", a "Funeral March on the execution of Louis XVI", the obligatory battle scene (more marching English, with cannon shots on the bass drum), and a finale that somehow illustrates "peace negotiations" and then celebrates the cessation of hostilities in rousing fashion.
You can be sure that the Habsburgs, for whom Wranitzky wrote the symphony, were impressed--and probably relieved as well. At a distance, and given the work'sRead more highly cultured and polished style, it's difficult to realize that it deals with very serious matters indeed. It's also interesting to listen to the funeral march for poor old Louis and consider that had the symphony been written today, the movement likely would have been a requiem for the common soldiers killed in battle. Some things have changed since then, and for the better.
You really can't go wrong with music like this. The tunes are catchy, the scoring is bright and brassy, and the whole thing is played with commendable verve and physicality by Howard Griffiths and his excellent orchestra. And unlike Beethoven's trashy Wellington's Victory, the piece really is a symphony, with a satisfying four-movement form and a welcome range of moods. The D major symphony returns to normal: pretty, well-made, post-Mozart and Haydn stuff, fine enough as it stands, but a bit of a letdown after the programmatic splendors of the previous work. Excellent SACD sonics in all formats make this genuinely appealing novelty a keeper, for sure.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less