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Carl CZERNY (1791-1857)
Symphony No. 6 in G minor (1854) [33:03]
Grand Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 781 (1847) [40:35]
SWR Rundfunkorchester Kaiserslautern/Grzegorz Nowak
rec. 2004/5
World première recording (6)
SWR MUSIC SWR19419CD [73:41]

Carl Czerny has long been regarded as an academic footnote in the history of 19C music, as a pedagogue and author of innumerable piano studies, but he was a prolific composer of serious music. This is the sole available recording of his Symphony No. 6 and is given the best possible advocacy by Czerny champion Grzegorz Nowak and the superb SWR Radio Orchestra. The composer most often brought to mind by this is music, especially in the scurrying string passages and the predominance of woodwind textures in the orchestration, is Mendelssohn, perhaps with a dash of Weber. The chattering flutes, chugging bass riffs and frequent, generous application of timpani in the second Allegro con brio section of the first movement compound a sense of good-humoured vitality; the ensuing Andante opens with a serene theme for horns and proceeds in a stately fashion worthy of early Beethoven. If you don’t think of the fluty-fairy music from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” when you first encounter the Scherzo, I’ll eat the disc; the finale consolidates those impressions with a dose of early Schubert at his most cheerful thrown in and here, more than perhaps anywhere else in this symphony, there is an element of “note-spinning” in the counterpoint busy-ness which doesn’t quite deliver.

Therein lies the problem: everything is “right” about this music; it is tightly constructed, tuneful, entertaining and exquisitely played here, but ultimately and inevitably sounds derivative to my early 21C ears. The fact is that the music sounds like a bridge between the Classical and Romantic eras of Austro-German music.

The Second Symphony is more neo-classical in flavour, the long “maestoso” introduction to its first movement sounding like Haydn at his most imposing. This is a big, meaty work, good music which remains less engaging than the later work and whose relentless working out of formulaic progressions results in its sometimes outstaying its welcome, especially in that first movement, which makes at most ten minutes of music last fifteen. The Andantino grazioso holds a charming, old-world appeal but again, the material is stretched too thin in the form of insufficiently varied recapitulations and embellishments of the main tune and I lose interest in the music after five minutes. A perky, then feisty, sub-Beethovenian Scherzo provides better entertainment; the Trio is relentlessly jaunty. The moto perpetuo Finale constantly reminds the listener of other, more celebrated music in that mode such as the Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro”, which is not really Czerny’s fault; it was probably the product of sub-conscious allusion. The strings work overtime with great dexterity and it makes for a rousing conclusion.

No recording location is given but it was presumably the broadcasting studios of the SWR (Southwest Broadcasting) in Kaiserslautern. The sound could not be better.

Ralph Moore



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