PLEYEL Symphonies Concertantes: in B?; in A. Violin Concerto in D • David Perry, Isabella Lippi, (vn); Victoria Chiang (va); Markand Thakar, cond; Baltimore CO • Naxos 8.570320 (79:33)
Ignaz Pleyel (1757–1831) lived a long life in troubled times. Born in Austria, he was a pupil of Franz Joseph Haydn. Later he moved to France and remained there for the rest of his life. As a composer, he competed with both Mozart, who was born a year earlier, and Beethoven, who was born 13 years later. He also ran a company thatRead more made pianos, and another that published music. Despite his business activities, he was a prolific composer, but most of his music was written early in his life. The music on this disc is thought to have been written between 1786 and 1792.
The Symphonie Concertante in B? (Benton 112) has only two movements, both of which offer sunny melodies. Within Pleyel’s comparatively simple melodic strains, one looks for excellence of performance. The performance with violinist David Perry and violist Victoria Chiang, accompanied by the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra led by Markand Thakar, is replete with translucent playing, tonally colorful harmonies, and robust counterpoint. The opulent cadenzas for Perry and Chiang were written by Suzanne Beia, the second violinist with the Pro Arte String quartet. Although Pleyel did not call this work a double concerto, that is what it is. It’s a welcome addition to the repertoire, and we can hope to hear it played more often in the future.
Pleyel’s Symphonie Concertante in A Major (Benton 114) was composed for his trip to London during 1792, when the composer could not offer concerts in France. In London, he had to contend with competition from his former teacher, Haydn, who was performing there at the same time. Both men were successful, but Haydn’s reviews were far more ecstatic. Nevertheless, at that time Pleyel’s music was heard widely in Europe and even in much less sophisticated Massachusetts.
Today, Pleyel’s music is not that easy to find and the only way one can get a good idea of the musical landscape of the late 18th century is to sample the music of various composers and evaluate their ideas. On this Naxos disc Thakar and his chamber orchestra play the Symphonie Concertante in A with exquisite precision and the serious attention to detail that give the 21st-century audience a very good idea of the joys of long ago in London.
The final selection is the violin concerto in D (Benton 103 and 103A) with David Perry as soloist. He plays the opening Allegro with spirit and follows it with a plaintive rendering of the Cantabile movement. With the final Rondo, he brings us back to Pleyel’s sunny melodic writing and crowns it with his own virtuosity. The sound on this recording, made in 2008 at the Kraushaar Auditorium in Towson, Maryland, is clean and clear in an immediate aural perspective thanks to the engineering of Michael Mermagen.
FANFARE: Maria Nockin
Occasionally I find myself thinking, “oh no, not another disk of music by so–and–so’s lesser known, and probably lesser, contemporary.” Happily, this was not one of those occasions. Here are three works which are most welcome visitors to my home.
In two fairly fastish movements, the
Symphonie Concertante in B flat, which is basically a Concerto for violin and viola, is a lovely affair. It is joyful, full of good humour, and a delight from beginning to end. There’s also a rather nice quirkiness to some of the themes.
The slightly later
Symphonie Concertante in A is for two violins and orchestra and is a more conservative composition. It doesn’t have the immediate appeal of the other work, nor does it share that work’s quirkiness in its thematic material. That said, it’s still a lovely work, with much to enjoy. I wonder if the decision to write the work in three movements might have had something to do with Pleyel’s straightforwardness? After the minor key middle section of the finale there is the most fabulously enjoyable romp of a coda.
Although a pupil of Haydn, the
Violin Concerto in D has more than its fair share of Mozartean fingerprints about it. A long first movement, which includes a big cadenza, has a couple of good tunes, the slow movement also includes a cadenza but, in truth, both movements are slightly overlong by a couple of minutes. Pleyel is neither a Haydn nor a Beethoven so his grasp on form isn’t quite as secure as theirs.
This is attractive music, however, and although it isn’t quite in the same class as his contemporaries it does please and entertain. The recording here is very good, even if the soloists are somewhat forward and a little too far in front of the orchestra, but the balance isn’t bad, one can always hear the band no matter how close the soloist is to the microphone.
I would recommend this to anyone interested in the music of this period who needs a rest from the angst and problems of the music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Also, we mustn’t forget that we need figures like Pleyel to remind us just how great Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven were!
Concerto for Violin in D major, B 103by Ignace Joseph Pleyel Performer:
David Perry (Violin)
Baltimore Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical Written: 1785-1787; Strasbourg, France
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Pleyel, Astounding DiscoveryMarch 20, 2014By Coady (Washington, DC)See All My Reviews"I heard the music on WETA Washington DC and immediately attracted to it. Upon looking at Pleyel's history he was extremely popular in his time and I can see why. It is strange how artists fall from favor. I may start a fan club. Give it a try. He was a major composer and there are many pieces to choose from."Report Abuse
Pleased By PleyelJanuary 25, 2013By Kenneth B. (Washington, DC)See All My Reviews"I was not familiar with Pleyel's music, but I am especially partial to violin music. When I heard the Violin Concerto in D played on my local classical music station, I liked it so much I went immediately to the station website and clicked the link to order the Pleyel CD that was played. Not only have I been happy to hear the violin concerto multiple times since receiving the disc, I have enjoyed the two Symphonies Concertantes that are also included. The performances are very good, and the quality of the recorded sound is clear and well balanced. All in all, this is an excellent value for the money."Report Abuse