Wilms: Symphonies Nos. 6 and 7 (CD review)

Werner Ehrhardt, Concerto Koln. Brilliant Classics 93778.

Why review a composer almost no one’s heard of? Five reasons: First and foremost for the very reason that most people don’t know Wilms well or at all, and I thought someone might just want to know something about him and his music. Second, Wilms’s music is interesting and deserves more recognition. Third, I just like the sound of the composer’s name: Johann Wilhelm Wilms. Say that aloud a few times: Wilhelm Wilms. Wilhelm Wilms. Very musical. Fourth, the small, historically informed chamber ensemble Concerto Koln has been recording for decades, playing some very good music and do so again on this disc. And fifth, I’ve always liked the sound the DG Archiv engineers produce, here reissued by Brilliant Classics.

Wilms (1772-1847) was a teacher and composer in Amsterdam around the turn of the nineteenth century, apparently a reasonably popular musician who, like so many others, fell immediately into obscurity after his death. His final two symphonies, Nos. 6 (1820) and 7 (1830) here get their première performances on CD. They are not earthshaking or groundbreaking, but they are generally pleasant to listen to, particularly in the capable hands of the Koln players.

The Sixth Symphony owes a lot to Wilms’s earlier contemporaries, Haydn and Mozart. There is, for instance, a jaunty little tune that bounces through the first movement sounding a lot like Haydn; it alternates with big, melodramatic moments reminiscent of Mozart’s most intense scenes in Don Giovanni. The combination doesn’t work very well, but it keeps you wondering where you’ve heard it all before.

By the Seventh Symphony, Wilms has left the Classical period altogether and joined the Romantic movement, the Seventh filled with allusions to Beethoven (reflections of the “Pastoral” Symphony abound) and to the spirit of European revolution (a la the “Eroica”). I enjoyed the Seventh quite a lot, and the differences a single decade had made in the composer’s output fascinated me. The Concerto Koln made a captivating discovery here and appear to be having a good time with the music.

The Brilliant Classics reissue of the Archiv studio sonics did not disappoint me, either. The sound is weighty and full and wide, making the relatively small Concerto Koln ensemble appear probably twice as big as it really is. The frequency range does not go through the floor, but it sounds well enough extended to get the job done; the inner detail is reasonably clear; the feeling of depth is not particularly necessary but adequate in any case; and the room-filling reverberation creates a realistic sense of occasion. A very nice recording.

To hear a brief excerpt from this album, click here:


JJP

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, as of right now it comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio High Current preamplifier, AVA FET Valve 550hc or Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa