Birth of the Symphony. Händel to Haydn
Academy of Ancient Music
Richard Egarr (conduction & harpsichord)
AAM Records, 2013
This album was recorded some years ago by Richard Egarr together with the Academy of Ancient Music has an ambitious goal and, for once, it is happily realized, even if the subject is so wide that it cannot be exhausted here. The purpose is retracing the birth of the symphony through music, presenting compositions by Georg Friedrich Händel, Franz Xaver Richter, Johann Wenzel Anton Stamitz, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Joseph Haydn.
The first composition is the symphony from Händel’s Saul, when the symphony was still closely linked to the opera or to the oratory and existed in function of that. This is a classical symphony in four movements, related to the sonata da chiesa, the French suite and the baroque concert. The orchestration is brilliant and allows the wind to show off.
The next two symphonies lead us to the mid XVIII century, in Mannheim, where the genre began to develop its new dynamics. The Great Symphony no. 7 in C Major by Richter and the Symphony no. 4 in D major by Stamitz are examples of the lively rhythm and the brilliance of the Mannheim school, which was one of the most famous and influential, so that even Mozart he recognized the value. Both symphonies are lively, listening with pleasure and the first Allegro of the Symphony no. 7 Richter has more than a witty.
The next step is represented by Mozart’s first symphony (K 16), one of those the young composer had elaborated during his trip to London with his father and sister (1764), when he had fallen under the influence of Johann Christian Bach.
The major part of the album is dedicated to the Symphony n. 49 in F minor by Haydn, nicknamed “The Passion” because the tone in which it is written was associated with melancholy in those days. This is also, like that of Händel, a symphony which recalls the sonata da chiesa and is characterized by the alternation of fast and slow times.
The Academy of Ancient Music, as one might expect from a group of specialists, plays with skill and enthusiasm and knows how to create the magnificently baroque and classical atmosphere that emanates from the symphonies: Birth of the Symphony is not just a “historical” CD, but it is also musically pleasing. I highly recommend it to all of you.