Cannabich: Symphonies Nos. 59, 63, 64, 67, and 68 (CD review)

Viktor Lukas, Lukas Consort. Naxos 8.553960.

The folks at Naxos seem determined to provide us with every symphony ever composed in the 1700s in their "18th Century Symphony" series, and at a modest price who could not resist wanting them all.
Like other releases I've heard in the line, this one released in 1998 is technically and artistically first-rate. German violinist, composer, and Kapellmeister Christian Cannabich (1731-1798) was yet another contemporary of Mozart who was popular in his day but whose light quickly faded into history. Mozart was apparently fond of Cannabich's composing, and especially of his conducting; he was among the few musicians Mozart praised. Perhaps it's no wonder; Cannabich's music sounds more like Mozart's than some of Mozart's own early works. 

Viktor Lukas
Whatever, the present disc contains five short symphonies, each in three movements and about a quarter hour long. Why Naxos present them in the order they are in is anybody's guess, but they appear on the disc as Nos. 63, 67, 64, 59, and 68. Why not chronological? Who would really care one way or the other?

One is tempted to mix and match the movements to program a new symphony of one's own--a favorite opening Allegro here, a slow Andante there, maybe a zesty Presto from somewhere else. Key changes in the pieces are pretty abrupt, anyway, and there is little or no apparent thematic continuity between movements as they are. (At least not apparent to me.) Nevertheless, the symphonies are all rather enjoyable, played with a lightness of heart by Viktor Lukas and his small Lukas Consort, a group of about fifteen strings and an assortment of solo wind players.

The accompanying booklet note tells us that Cannabich himself led a rather large ensemble as the Director of the Mannheim Orchestra of his day (1774-1798), an orchestra sometimes reaching as many as ninety-five musicians and finally, because of budget restraints, reduced to about fifty-five players. Certainly, the more diminutive size of the Lukas Consort gives them the advantage of clarity, which is enhanced by the general excellence of the Naxos recording.


To listen to a few brief excerpts from this album, click below:

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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