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Johann Christoph Vogel: Three Symphonies

Vogel / Bavarian Chamber Philharmonic / Goebel
Release Date: 03/30/2010 
Label:  Oehms   Catalog #: 735   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Christoph Vogel
Conductor:  Reinhard Goebel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian Chamber Philharmonic
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 58 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

VOGEL Symphonies: No. 1 in D; No. 2 in E?; No. 3 in B? Reinhold Goebel, cond; Bavarian Ch Ph OEHMS 735 (58:21)

In his chatty, very discursive liner notes, Reinhold Goebel makes an excellent point: Vogel’s symphonies are perfect of their type—a type that was swept away when Haydn’s “Paris” symphonies were premiered in the French capitol, after the latter rejected out of hand a request to model both their structure and content from a work the impresarios promised to send. Until Haydn upended the symphony and Read more caused a sensation, the public was outspoken about what it expected to hear: powerful crescendos; vigorous unison passages; small, easily digestible nuggets of counterpoint; graceful slow movements in the galant mode adorned with sighs and fluttering triplets; Italianate rondo finales with minor-key passages played pizzicato, etc. Which isn’t to say that Haydn did away completely with these elements, but that he made them subordinate to his way of doing things, and added many novelties that Parisian concertgoers would never have accepted from a less renowned musician.

So if Vogel’s three symphonies published in 1784 seem by comparison at times surprisingly progressive, at others hearkening back to a few of the less-interesting masters of the Mannheim School, it’s not surprising. As with a marketing campaign, he was targeting several important groups within his audience, and each had to receive its due. Thus, the jaunty-themed but blandly conservative Allegro of the Symphony No. 1 is followed by a galant theme-and-variations whose lilting lyricism probably betrays a familiarity with J. C. Bach. The work concludes with a surprisingly witty, sophisticated, Haydnesque rondo. The opening movement of the Second Symphony features an unusual amount of well-conceived development, with some serious minor-key excursions that bring to mind the minor-key “church symphonies” of the 1760s. The darker mood is sustained in the central Adagio’s brief introduction—a nice touch—and occasionally reappears amid the subsequent galant material, along with sinfonia concertante moments in its lengthy horn and clarinet solos that look ahead to Bellini. The finale (a rondo, but with components of sonata form) parodies amusingly what must have been some popular but vapid work of the period, with repetitive figures that summon forth a cascade of Rossini-like chuckles from the violins. The Symphony No. 3 begins with an unusually rich and dramatic mix of thematic material, some of it hearkening back to the Baroque, while yet other motifs could have come from Hasse or even Cimarosa. The slow movement is another sinfonia concertante one, though of less intrinsic interest, while the finale in modified sonata form (with development repeats from the early days of the Classical symphony) combines both primitive rhythmic motifs with typically galant themes, along with some phrases and coloration that recall Mozart’s “Jupiter.”

This isn’t to say that Vogel was a storehouse of ideas mined by others, but that he expertly combined all sorts of things that were in the air at the time. If something you heard didn’t do much for you, I suspect he would urge you to listen further a bit, because something else very different was bound to come along soon. A side glance at that 19th-century giant of opera Meyerbeer might be appropriate here, as he is usually blamed for damaging the quality of his operas through seeking to please as many groups of Parisian operagoers as he could. If the price for getting his works performed was knowing whom to impress, perhaps Meyerbeer’s bargain was the best that could be made under the circumstances—and consequently Vogel’s, as well.

The performances are expert, with Goebel getting precision, a good sectional blend, and a refined cantabile from his Bavarian musicians. The sound is moderately distant, though, perhaps to soften the strings’ edge, acquired through a lack of vibrato. (Really, if a vibratoless sound is supposed to be so nutritious for us, as some—but by no means all—period authorities agree, why remove it from the instruments just to put it back through a reverberant audio environment, or move the instruments away from the microphone to cancel the effect?)

In sum, there’s none of the excitement here that comes from discovering a new symphony by such distinctive and imaginative musical personalities as Gossec, Eybler, or Paul Wranitzky. However, Vogel aimed to amuse the audiences of his day, and there’s certainly plenty to enjoy in this symphonic microcosm of kaleidoscopic influences working on late 18th-century Paris.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

Symphony No. 1 in D major by Johann Christoph Vogel
Conductor:  Reinhard Goebel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian Chamber Philharmonic
Venue:  Aufeß-Saal im Germanischen Nationalmuseu 
Length: 20 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Symphony No. 2 in E-flat major by Johann Christoph Vogel
Conductor:  Reinhard Goebel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian Chamber Philharmonic
Venue:  Aufeß-Saal im Germanischen Nationalmuseu 
Length: 16 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Symphony No. 3 in B-flat major by Johann Christoph Vogel
Conductor:  Reinhard Goebel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian Chamber Philharmonic
Venue:  Aufeß-Saal im Germanischen Nationalmuseu 
Length: 20 Minutes 54 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 I did not expect September 27, 2013 By Anthony G. (SANTA FE, NM) See All My Reviews "I did not expect to discover how great these symphonies are and how they are a thrill to listen to. I have come to be called to listen to these symphonies over and over again always wondering why Vogel's music is not represented more in the repertory. We need to hear more of this composer's works in other genre as this cd cogently suggests." Report Abuse
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