Matthias Bamert’s Contemporaries of Mozart project is one of Chandos’ longest-running and most successful recording series. Mozart’s unquestionable genius has tended to eclipse the work of many otherwise excellent composers who were writing at the same time as he. Often successful in their day, many of these composers fell into neglect over subsequent decades and were in some cases almost forgotten. Matthias Bamert has shown just how rich this area of the repertoire is, and each of his CDs received superb critical acclaim. This uniquely compiled set comprises five of his most successful CDs in the series – much of this music is not easily available elsewhere – and provides an ideal introduction – and at bargain price. Each symphony (by Krommer, Stamitz, Pleyel, Kozeluch and Wranitzky), full of classically elegant melodies and stylishly orchestrated, is imbued with a variety of imaginative touches to keep the listener on his toes!
The conventional wisdom about Venetian Antonio Lotti, composer of the a cappella masterwork "Crucifixus," is that as a card-carrying member of the stil antico he represented a conservative viewpoint akin to that of his later contemporary Leonardo Leo – the fewer instruments the better, the closer to the polyphonic language of Palestrina the better. Moreover, if the "Crucifixus" was the only work of Lotti that someone became acquainted with, then he/she could not be blamed for believing this was so, although he/she might note the distinct Baroque harmonic coloring of the piece as being rather unlike that of Palestrina. Here is a challenge for you – CPO's Antonio Lotti: Vesper Psalms performed by the Sächsisches Vocalensemble and Batzdorfer Hofkapelle under Matthias Jung. It presents a selection of Lotti's surviving concerted sacred choral works, pieces that are scored with a small Baroque orchestra and easily comparable to contemporary music by Handel, Johann Sebastian Bach, and his direct competitor Antonio Vivaldi. Careful scrutiny of the poorly compiled worklist for Lotti in Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians reveals that some of these pieces are so listed, but with no mention whatsoever of the instrumental forces involved; they are identified as a cappella works just like the others. One wonders to the extent of Grove's oversight in this matter.
Franz Krommer (1759-1831) was a prolific and very good composer, whose music is now being resuscitated with great and deserved success. It was difficult to be a composer in Vienna at the same time as Beethoven and Schubert, and most of their contemporaries have not survived the pressure. But Krommer managed to retain his personality and originality, becoming the last official director of chamber music and court composer to the Habsburg court under the conservative Emperor Francis I. The first of the two symphonies was published in 1803. Among its many interesting features is a haunting litde trio in the form of a waltz. The second work is much later, with four horns and three trombones, and is in C minor, but ending in the major. In both works, Krommer's knowledge of, and predilection for, the wind instruments is notable. The two works were well worth recording, especially with such felicitous performances and bright, pleasing recorded sound.
From 1920s Vienna and the Berlin of the Weimar Republic to emigration to the USA, then back to Vienna after the defeat of Nazism, to end his days in East Berlin: Hanns Eisler’s life was one long exile against the backcloth of the artistic, technical, and political revolutions of the 20th century. Distance, irony, and melancholy are the aesthetic corollaries that characterise the lieder presented here, their atmosphere often evoking the despair of those dark times. The early piano sonata gained the young Eisler an admiration that has never dimmed since.