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Johann Wilhelm Wilms / Halstead, Netherlands Radio Co


Release Date: 07/11/2006 
Label:  Challenge   Catalog #: 72147   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Wilhelm Wilms
Conductor:  Anthony Halstead
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



WILMS Symphonies: in E?, op. 14; in c, op. 23; in D, op. 52; in d, op 58 . Variations on Wilhelmus van Nassauwe Anthony Halstead, cond; Netherlands RCO CHALLENGE 72147 (2 CDs: 124:24)


The following is an excerpt from an article in an 1815 Read more edition of 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, would at the very least would have been stunted.” The writer was lamenting what he felt was a sad state of musical affairs in Amsterdam. The irony is that the article was written by the most respected and widely performed composer in the Netherlands at the time, Johann Wilhelm Wilms (1772–1847).


At the age of 19, the young Wilms left his native Germany for the more fertile musical soil of the Dutch capital, where he was immediately and warmly welcomed to the private and public concert life. His talents as a pianist were admired in the homes of the well-to-do and he was acclaimed as a concerto soloist in the concert halls and valued as an orchestral flutist. Wilms was active in Amsterdam’s musical life, specifically the Felix Meretis and Eruditio Musica societies for many years, but composition was, as he put it, “Merely the fruit of those hours that were left after his varied and wearisome day’s business had been completed.” Wilms’s compositions focused upon the forms and style that were popular with the Dutch audiences, i.e., symphonies and concertos.


Wilms’s first four symphonies were written between 1791 and 1801, that is, between the death of Mozart and the publication of Beethoven’s first symphony. The Leipzig premiere of Wilms’s Symphony in C Major, op. 9, brought him recognition as “one of the most intelligent, liveliest and best-trained of artists.” His other symphonies followed sometime later, with more than a decade elapsing between the Fifth and Sixth. The latter, by the way, won first prize in an 1820 competition for the Genootschap voor Schone Kunsten (Society for Fine Arts) in Ghent.


As a composer, Wilms was not an innovator, but he had a keen sense for the musical styles of the day, and though he was no genius, he was equipped well enough to employ them with both confidence and skill. Judging Wilms’s seven symphonies by the year they were written and their opus numbers seems simple, but as with some compositions of his contemporary, Beethoven, this raises questions and problems. It is entirely possible that the success of the later symphonies made publication of the earlier ones financially possible.


The first three symphonies, ops. 9, 10, (not included in this release), and 14 (in E?) are unmistakably indebted to Haydn and follow the blueprint of the symphonies he composed for his two journeys to London. However, in the C-Minor Symphony there is an increase in the dramatic content, indicating that Wilms had become familiar with the music of Beethoven. By the time the ink had dried on the Symphonies in D Major and D Minor, we are unquestionably in the 19th century. The third movement had become a Scherzo, a title it deserves. The filler on this release, the Variations on Wilhelm van Nassau , could have been dispensed with, as it is merely a bit of patriotic fluff founded upon Wilhelmus , then the Dutch national anthem.


In Fanfare 28:3 (January/February 2005), I wrote the following concerning an Archiv release of two of Wilms’s symphonies by the period-instrument band Concerto Köln: “As far as this composer is concerned, Concerto Köln owns the turf, and if this release is any indication, they’re not likely to be challenged in the foreseeable future.” Time to wipe the egg from my face, eat my words, whatever, as just over two years later, Challenge Classics embarrassed me with this quartet of works in excellent modern-instrument performances by a first-class Dutch orchestra with an English conductor renowned for his interest in this sort of repertoire. In the future, I shall endeavor to choose my words more carefully. Because of some confusion regarding the numbering of Wilms’s symphonies, they are identified on the Challenge release solely by their opus numbers. The Symphony in D Minor, op. 58, is also found on the Archive release where it is identified as No. 6, with its discmate, supposedly the Seventh, bearing no opus number.


I have to say up front that although I commended Concerto Köln’s release for “bracing tempos and energy that crackles from beginning to end,” I must also heap praise upon Halstead and his extraordinary Dutch band for their balanced and poised performances that exhibit charm and elegance, commitment and energy. Although the Archiv release is considerably more aggressive in its approach to the music, Halstead and his orchestra exhibit plenty of verve and vitality as well. The Archiv will serve as an excellent introduction to Wilms for the unfamiliar, but I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that once you’ve heard it, you’ll waste no time in acquiring the Challenge as well, and you should.


Although Wilms remains firmly ensconced in the second echelon of early-19th-century composers, he is certainly worth investigating if you are seeking something different for your collection or are interested in playing an intriguing game of musical trivia with your friends on a winter evening. They might even think it’s Schubert, as a friend of mine did when he heard it for the first time!


FANFARE: Michael Carter
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony in D minor, Op. 58 by Johann Wilhelm Wilms
Conductor:  Anthony Halstead
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1823; Netherlands (Holland 
2.
Symphony in E flat major, Op. 14 by Johann Wilhelm Wilms
Conductor:  Anthony Halstead
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1809; Netherlands (Holland 
3.
Variations on "Wilhelmus van Nassauwe" by Johann Wilhelm Wilms
Conductor:  Anthony Halstead
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Netherlands (Holland 
4.
Symphony in D major, Op. 52 by Johann Wilhelm Wilms
Conductor:  Anthony Halstead
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1823; Netherlands (Holland 
5.
Symphony no 4 in C minor, Op. 23 by Johann Wilhelm Wilms
Conductor:  Anthony Halstead
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Netherlands (Holland 

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