Haydn wrote the six quartets of Opp 54 and 55 in 1788, by now a celebrated composer across Europe and still opera Kapellmeister at Esterházy. These period instrument players, whose very name declares their affinity for Haydn, excel in the latest in their Hyperion series. Ever spry in fast movements, faultless in dexterity and intonation, they find a special warmth of feeling in the slower moments: the songful Adagio Cantabile of Op 55 No 1, the puzzling, melancholy Andante of Op 55 No 2, the dark, hymn-like first bars of Op 54 No 2’s Adagio, out of which the violin soars in almost improvised, bluesy reverie. Too many pleasures to enumerate. Try for yourself.
German-born English composer William Herschel (1738-1822) achieved fame as an astronomer, the discoverer of the planet Uranus; but his formal training was musical, and in the early 1760s he composed a series of symphonies, six of which are featured here. They are attractive works in simple forms, all centered on the keys of C or D, scored for continuo, strings, winds, and occasional brass in various combinations. Each has three movements, and none lasts more than about 12 minutes. Not surprisingly, Nos. 14 and 17, which feature horns and timpani, pack the largest punch, and Herschel wrote some surprisingly memorable tunes (particularly in the allegros), making these slight works easy on the ear and, if a touch formulaic in construction, seldom dull.
This disc of five symphonies by François-Joseph Gossec (1734-1829) is part of Chandos' Contemporaries of Mozart series. As he was born two years after Haydn and died two years before Schubert, he was also a contemporary of Beethoven as well as many other composers of the Classical and early Romantic periods. Like Haydn, Gossec lead a successful career in music that included composing, performing, teaching and various directorship positions throughout France. (Yes kids, you can make money in music, no matter what your parents say!) As would be expected, Gossec was highly prolific, producing no fewer than thirty works for the stage, a large body of choral and chamber music, and over fifty symphonies.
Václav (Wenzel) Pichl was born on September 25, 1741 of humble parentage, at Bechyne. He began his musical studies with Jan Pokorny, the local choirmaster and teacher. Pichl's list of works includes twenty operas, thirty masses, eighty-nine symphonies, thirty concertos, and a huge body of chamber music, including 148 pieces which he wrote for Joseph Haydn's employer. The Symphony in B flat, Z23 is scored for strings, two oboes and two horns. A solemn and substantial introductory Grave prefaces a vivacious sonata-form Allegro assai with two contrasting themes, a taut development section, and a condensed recapitulation. The second movement is a tender Andante arioso in F, elaborately laid out for the strings alone; it is followed by a Rondo with a rather square, but engaging, refrain, and three spirited episodes. The Symphony in E flat, Z24 is scored fro strings, two oboes and two horns as well. The first movement is a trim Allegro with a rhythmic first subject, closely followed by a gentle second subject on oboes and violins. Next comes an Andante in B flat, in the style of a Gavotte and in the form of slow rondo with two episodes, the first in G minor and the second in E flat major, and then a brisk finale in condensed sonata form and enlivened by syncopation. The London Mozart Players in Britain's longest-estalished chamber orchestra. lFounded in 1949 by the late Harry Blech, the London Mozart Players have a worldwide reputation for its outstanding and insightful performances and recordings of its core repertoire - the music of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven.