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 His music may be outdated but not any the less fun.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:


No comments:

Post a Comment

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.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa