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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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa