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Wilms: Symphonies No 1 & 4, Overture In D / Griffiths, Et Al

Release Date: 07/28/2009 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777209-2   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johann Wilhelm Wilms
Conductor:  Howard Griffiths
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 5 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.


WILMS Symphonies: No. 1 in C, op. 9; No. 4 in c, op. 23. Overture in D Howard Griffiths,cond; NDR RPO CPO 777 209 (65:13)

The following is an excerpt from an article Read more in an 1815 edition of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung: “If Haydn or Mozart had lived here, they probably would not have become what they did; here they would have had to spend the whole livelong day teaching, with the result that their genius, if not stifled, at the very least would have been stunted.” This quote was lifted from an article concerning what the writer viewed as a sad state of musical affairs in early 19th-century Amsterdam. It carries even more weight when one comes to realize that it wasn’t penned by a whining critic, but by the most widely performed composer in the Netherlands at the time, Johann Wilhelm Wilms, known in Dutch as Johan Willem Wilms (1772–1847).

Born two years after Beethoven, Wilms seemed predestined to follow in his father’s footsteps as a schoolmaster, but he began to migrate toward music. Following lessons from his father and older brother in piano and composition, he taught himself the flute and in the summer of 1791 the 20-year-old Wilms set out to investigate Amsterdam, then as now one of the leading musical centers on the continent. He found himself in demand almost immediately; Wilms gave piano lessons to wealthy families, played piano in their salons and drawing rooms, and also played flute in various orchestras, including that of Erudito Musica and the prestigious Felix Meretis Society. In 1808, Wilms was appointed a member of the Netherlands Institute of Sciences, Literature, and Fine Arts and he became one of the first honorary members of the Society for the Promotion of Music. He also gave the Netherlands premieres of a number of piano concertos by Mozart and all five of the piano concertos of Beethoven

Believe it or not, with all of this on his plate, Wilms found time to compose, leaving behind a considerable body of work that includes every genre. Among the orchestral works composed by Wilms are five piano concertos and seven symphonies, the first dating from 1809 and the last being penned after 1835. The Wilms authority Bert Hagels does not number them, but in his chronology, the pair recorded here are Nos. 1 and 4, the latter dating from1812.

The first firm documentation of a performance of Wilms’s Symphony in C Major, op. 9, was New Year’s Day, 1806 at the prestigious Gewandhaus in Leipzig. The audience and the critics reacted in an overwhelmingly positive manner, with the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung noting, “One heard it with pleasure and quickly and precisely performed, it will be heard everywhere with pleasure, regardless of the fact that one might demonstrate that its author had some reminiscences, in the ideas themselves and their execution.” The critic was making a not-so-veiled reference to the first symphony of Beethoven. This is a work with more than one musical personality, though, for some of the music and the way Wilms works through the material also brings to mind the name of Haydn. According to Hagels, the theme of the allegro in the first movement of this symphony was modeled on the corresponding theme from Haydn’s Symphony No. 91. Also as in Haydn’s symphony, the secondary here is in the dominant key. In contrast to Haydn, Wilms enlarges the orchestral palate to include clarinet, trumpets, and timpani.

The Symphony in C Minor, op. 23, premiered in 1807, is more forward-looking, with more of a Beethoven feel, including a more solemn and serious feel, more dramatic stress being placed on the slow movement, and the third movement—though marked Menuetto—moving toward the 19th-century Scherzo. Again, positive remarks found their way into the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, with their critic writing, “I found the composition and performance of a Symphony in C Minor by Wilms especially remarkable and afterwards I heard several works written entirely in Haydn’s style and spirit by this skilled master who is also a fine pianoforte player.” Also the critic E. T. A. Hoffmann, who was published in the same periodical, said that Wilms was “striving for a certain inner solidity, for the higher, the more significant” in his symphony, and because it was so compelling, the auditor shouldn’t be disappointed if it didn’t quite measure up to Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.

As for the overture, it appears to be the earliest of the five works in the genre composed by Wilms. It could date from May of 1829 when an overture of Wilms was played in a concert by the orchestra of the Felix Meritis Society. It shares certain stylistic traits with the Fourth Symphony, e.g., a dramatic introduction, a second theme whose counterpoint is the first theme, and an extraordinarily extensive coda. The orchestra here is larger as well; it includes three trombones that otherwise are found only in Wilms’s Seventh Symphony.

Technically committed … flamboyant performances, but with a natural flow … cleanness and precision … expressivity never exaggerated or sentimental … bold, intense, and even relentless at times; the sound has both clarity and immediacy and is superbly balanced …

Unassailable on any grounds …

FANFARE: Michael Carter
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 1 in C major, Op. 9 by Johann Wilhelm Wilms
Conductor:  Howard Griffiths
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Overture in D major by Johann Wilhelm Wilms
Conductor:  Howard Griffiths
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Symphony no 4 in C minor, Op. 23 by Johann Wilhelm Wilms
Conductor:  Howard Griffiths
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Netherlands (Holland 

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