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Friedrich SCHNEIDER (1786-1853)
Ouvertüre über den Dessauer Marsch op.50 [11:30]
Symphonie Nr. 16 A-Dur [32:19]
Gaudeamus Igitur Festouvertüre op.84 [12:01]
Ouverture tragique c-Moll op.45 [10:38]
Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau/Markus L. Frank
rec. 2017, Zerbst, Germany
CPO 555 180-2 [66:50]

Have you ever heard of Friedrich Schneider? You haven’t? Well, you are not alone. Even many contemporaries of him did not know of his varied output. This was mainly due to his being court composer in Dessau, although some of his works were performed more widely, including his 16th Symphony which was given under Mendelssohn at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig.

Fortunately, Schneider’s successor at Dessau (though not at court, but as conductor of the Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau) has a keen interest in almost forgotten composers of the 18th and 19th centuries. Thanks to his enthusiasm we are now able to listen to this world première recording and hear for ourselves whether Schneider’s critically acclaimed 16th symphony lives up to our expectations, and discover some of his overtures along the way.

Today, if at all, Friedrich Schneider is best known for his Weltgericht-Oratorio. However, he was a prolific composer of other oratorios, hymns, cantatas, choir pieces, symphonies and overtures. Unfortunately, many of them were only performed locally, even less were printed, and most of his oeuvre had already fallen into neglect during the final years of his life, as he – being court composer – often composed for occasions rather than posterity. This, however, does not mean these compositions are to be regarded as unworthy of reappearance. During Schneider’s lifetime, none of his symphonies was printed, though some were performed regularly. His overtures fared a bit better, with nine out of his 20 overtures being published during his lifetime.

Schneider wrote his first symphony aged only twelve, and was to compose 22 more over the course of his life, 14 of which he composed in 1810 while in Leipzig. Why exactly he poured out more than one symphony per month during that particular year remains a mystery, but it is a very remarkable achievement and it would be great to be able to listen to the results of this marathon and see if the quality suffered. His 16th symphony, however, was not among these speedily composed works, as it was written two years later. At Leipzig, Schneider was music director, Thomas organist at St Thomas’s Church, and conductor of the Leipzig Singakademie. Although a musical city at that time (notably because of the famous Gewandhaus and its orchestra), the real boom to become the musical capital of Europe was yet to come, massively helped by Mendelssohn’s founding Europe’s first music conservatoire there in 1843.

In 1821, Schneider was asked to become Hofkapellmeister (court conductor) at the court in Dessau. As today’s Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau dates back to 1766, the orchestra Schneider had been put in charge of is technically the ‘same’ that made this first recording of his symphony under Markus L. Frank. Having started his career as hornist, Frank then studied conducting in Detmold and Hamburg before making his way to Dessau, becoming chief conductor of the Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau in 2016 – just in time for the 250th anniversary celebration. On the festive programme Friedrich Schneider featured prominently, amongst other works by Frank’s predecessors there. A circumstance that was also helped by Frank’s interest in nearly forgotten composers and compositions of the 18th and 19th centuries. This recording was made in collaboration with Deutschlandfunk Kultur (Germany’s cultural broadcasting radio channel). The Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau already has some recording experience and really does Schneider’s compositions justice.

Schneider’s Overture on the Dessau march is charmingly unpretentious, yet military festive as one might expect. The symphony is an exemplary composition of this genre, with a good balance of musical originality and form, and its lied-like character and the quasi-Italianate Menuetto coming as an unexpected treat. The only thing that is wanting is to see more of the composer in his composition – there are no real ‘schneideresque’ elements which let it stand out. Yet, it is very enjoyable for its unpretentious musical qualities.

All in all, this is a very good recording of some exemplary pieces by a thoroughly capable composer.

Maximilian Burgdörfer

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