Pleyel: Symphonies (CD review)

Jakub Dzialak, piano; Riccardo Bovino, violin; Howard Griffiths, Zurcher Kammerorchester. CPO 999 759-2.

If the music sounds like Haydn or Mozart, don't be surprised. Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831) was a contemporary of those men, and, perhaps surprisingly, in his day people thought he might be greater than Mozart and the successor to Haydn. OK, if you are an enthusiastic classical-music fan, you already know that.

Pleyel was a prominent figure in his time, a French composer and piano builder born in Austria, a pupil of Joseph Haydn, and the prolific writer of some fifty classical symphonies and a ton of other stuff before retiring from music into the world of business. Today he's all but forgotten except in occasional recordings like this one that, alas, I would guess few people will have even heard of. Nevertheless, this 2002 recording could still make Pleyel a few new friends. His music may be outdated but not any the less fun.

Howard Griffiths
The three works on the album are his Symphony in D major, Op. 3; his Second Symphonie Concertante for Violin, Piano, and Orchestra; and his Sixth Symphonie Periodique. These from a man who wrote more symphonies than Mozart. Yet by the end of his lifetime his critics were calling his music old-fashioned, lightweight, and facile, the emerging style of Beethoven having swept the Continent. Well, Pleyel is lightweight, no doubt, but for modern listeners that may be his strongest suit. The fact is, there isn't much going on in Pleyel's music that we can't anticipate before ever hearing it, yet one can say much the same thing of most other composers of the Baroque and Classical periods.

Anyway, of the three works represented here, I preferred the Symphony Concertante best, it being a sort of minor-league Mozart violin-and-piano concerto. It has zip and zest and all manner of wit and humor about it, with violinist Jakub Dzialak and pianist Riccardo Bovino playing their hearts out as if it were, indeed, Beethoven; and Howard Griffiths and the Zurich Chamber Orchestra give them splendid support.

What's more, CPO do their part, too, by providing a good, open acoustic and reasonably well detailed sonics; fairly strong dynamics; a modicum of hall warmth and bloom; and a realistic dimensionality to the presentation. True, the music may sound imitative, but for me it was worth hearing.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:


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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