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.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the pianist’s death, EMI has brought out the largest and most comprehensive Cortot collection ever. The set offers nearly every commercial studio recording released under Cortot’s name on 78 shellac, vinyl LP, 45 rpm single, or compact disc, including unpublished takes already released on CD. To be sure, it is not quite “The Complete Cortot”. For example, the collection omits Cortot’s 1903 sessions accompanying soprano Felia Litvinne, plus a 1925 recording containing the second half only of Chopin’s First Ballade coupled on shellac with the same composer’s Second Impromptu. There is no broadcast material, either. However, we do get Cortot’s unpublished 1957 Chopin Preludes and Ballades, along with a few samples from the pianist’s long-rumored, unfinished Beethoven cycle recorded at the Ecole Normale in 1958/59
George Frederick Handel (1685-1759), one of the preeminent Baroque composers, was born in Germany, educated in Italy, and spent most of his career in England, making him one of the first genuinely cosmopolitan composers noted, for the elegance, sophistication, and tunefulness of his music. He established his reputation in London as a composer of Italian opera, but after public taste shifted in the 1730s, he turned to English oratorios, the most famous of which is Messiah. Other popular works include Water Music, Royal Fireworks Music, the operas Giulio Cesare and Serse, and the oratorios Israel in Egypt and Judas Maccabeus.