Notes and Editorial Reviews
This enterprising collection brings together three works you probably haven’t heard before—by composers you may well have never heard of. Despite the album’s title—“Concertos hollandais pour piano”—none of the three composers was actually born in the Netherlands. But they all immigrated to Amsterdam toward the end of the 18th century (Wilms and Schmitt from Germany, Fodor from Austria), and they all contributed significantly to the musical life of the city. Except for the fiery and substantial first movement of the 1802 Fodor—which may well remind you of one of Haydn’s Sturm und Drang symphonies—there’s little here to seize your imagination; and there are arguably a few moments (for instance, the first movement of the 1778 Schmitt) that may
briefly numb your mind. Still, for the most part, the composers handle the lingua franca of their times (including a shot of “Turkish” music in the finale of the Fodor) with reasonable agility, and they offer plenty of anodyne pleasure, both extroverted (the frisky finale to the Schmitt) and introspective (the sensitive Poco adagio of the Wilms).
For the Wilms and Schmitt, Schoonderwoerd uses a brilliant-sounding replica of a 1770 “tangent piano” by William John Story Jurgenson; the more modern Fodor is played on a far mellower, less harpsichordy instrument, a copy of a 1795 Walter by Poletti and Tuinman. Schoonderwoerd makes the most of the tonal contrasts between the two; and if the performances are occasionally a bit square in phrasing (surely, the searching middle movement of the Schmitt could be more yielding), they’re rhythmically energetic and timbrally vivid. The massive three-language program booklet isn’t always consistent (“Around 1800 Amsterdam was still a small city . . . its 200,000 or so inhabitants made it one of Europe’s largest cities”); nor is it always to the point. There is, for instance, a long essay analyzing the cover painting (which comes from 1820, a different cultural environment); but there’s virtually no detail about the three works included on the CD. Still, there’s a fair amount of cultural background, and Jurgenson and Poletti have provided useful essays about their instruments. All in all, recommended for the curious.
Peter J. Rabinowitz, FANFARE
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