Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Piano Concerto in C. Flute Concerto in D. Symphony in E?
Michael A. Willens, cond; Paolo Giacometti (pn); Martin Sandhoff (fl); Cologne Academy (period instruments)
ARS PRODUKTION 38 024 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 75:14)
I first made the acquaintance of Johann Wilhelm Wilms
(1772–1847) many years ago by way of a transcription provided by the international service of Radio Nederland for radio stations in the United States. Once the use rights had expired, the disc and its companions suddenly and mysteriously disappeared from the station’s library. What were the words that John Banner’s character, Sergeant Schultz, in
popularized? “I know notink, I heer notink, I zee notink!” Anyway, I felt that this Wilms character was possessed of sufficient talent that he warranted further investigation; I even took it upon myself to pen a missive to the late Newell Jenkins suggesting that he consider looking into Wilms’s music. I recall receiving a polite reply but whether anything ever came of my suggestion, I don’t know. Fast forward some four decades and we now find that several of Wilms’s symphonies have been recorded: two by Werner Erhardt and Concerto Köln for Archiv and four on a two-disc set for the Dutch label Challenge Classics.
Wilms was born in the German city of Solingen, studying first with his father and elder brother. In 1791, Wilms went to Amsterdam, where he taught piano and later joined the orchestras of the Felix Meretis Society and Eruditio Musica, with which—as a pianist—Wilms was responsible for introducing the piano concertos of Mozart and Beethoven to the Netherlands. Wilms is remembered today more as an administrator than as a composer. He became one of the most important musicians in the Netherlands, and served on several committees, including the music faculty of the Koninklijk Nederlandsch Instituut voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Schoone Kunsten in Amsterdam, and the Maatschappij tot Bevordering der Toonkunst. He also was sought out as a member of juries for composition competitions.
Wilms composed 15 concertos or other works for solo instrument and orchestra; most remained unpublished and neglected following his death. Many are irretrievably lost; only the five concertos published in his lifetime survive. Wilms’s knowledge of the potential of the various instruments was matched by his thorough familiarity with the capabilities of the Amsterdam musicians who played them. His compositions, most of which are in the style of the Viennese classicists, were always greeted with respect, but seldom did they receive any degree of enthusiasm, as by the time that Wilms achieved musical maturation, Classicism had already yielded much ground to Romanticism.
Even though the ghost of Mozart might have been looking over Wilms’s shoulder when he wrote the Piano Concerto, it is a work that would surely make the Salzburg
smile with approval. It begins
, and as such recalls the opening of Mozart’s K 467. This salutatory movement is expansive; it lasts almost a quarter hour, but never suffers from overstatement or lack of forward motion. The ensuing Adagio contains some nice touches that include attractive wind coloring. The lower strings, playing pizzicato, announce the final Rondo, and the soloist enters almost immediately, stealing the show and holding the spotlight until the final chords fade into oblivion.
The Symphony, like the Piano Concerto, is early Wilms, and was probably his earliest, even though there is another that was published as op. 9 by the Leipzig firm of Kühnel. The debt to Mozart is also apparent here, but with its well-juxtaposed comingling of intelligence, wit, fervor, and refinement, the Symphony could also be viewed as having had an amalgam of influences. Never stumbling, it proceeds steadily throughout its half-hour duration, and more important, it is consistently entertaining.
The Flute Concerto is on a smaller scale than its counterpart for piano, but it is no less well written. Wilms, according to the notes, took into account the wishes of his contemporaries that the Concerto not be overly florid or long, but light and pleasing. He did not, however, opt for empty notes. Rather, he gave the listener music of substance with a polite nod toward emotion, music that two centuries on still leaves both the ear and intellect of the listener satiated.
One can’t help but appreciate the suppleness of the soloists in these performances as well as their excellent feel for the music and the sentiment behind the notes. Their playing is focused, accurate, and committed, and is also infused with unforced stylistic grace. They approach Wilms with the same respect they might accord Mozart, and as a result produce performances that are world-class. Michael Alexander Willens and his colleagues provide fresh and intelligent support that is technically agile, and with sensitive phrasing and warmth where required.
The music on this CD offers an excellent cross section of Wilms’s output and therefore makes for a fine introduction to his work. What you will find is 75 minutes of very attractive music that surely fell pleasantly on the ears of Amsterdam audiences in Wilms’s day, and would unquestionably find some favor in today’s concert halls. I didn’t expect to find Mozart in this CD, but what I
find brought back pleasant memories from an earlier period in my life.
I’m eagerly looking forward to sampling the next release in this series, a disc of three symphonies by Bernhard Romberg (1767–1841).
FANFARE: Michael Carter
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Piano in C major, Op. 12 by Johann Wilhelm Wilms
Paolo Giacometti (Piano)
Michael Alexander Willens
Symphony in E flat major, Op. 14 by Johann Wilhelm Wilms
Michael Alexander Willens
Written: 1809; Netherlands (Holland
Concerto for Flute in D major, Op. 24 by Johann Wilhelm Wilms
Martin Sandhoff (Flute)
Michael Alexander Willens
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