For those who follow the hierarchy of Mozart's contemporaries, Juan Arriaga is the "Spanish Mozart," Joseph Martin Kraus is the "Swedish Mozart," and so on. This makes some measure of sense; both were classical composers who bore some affinity to the work of Mozart and both were, like him, short-lived. In the liner notes to CPO's Simon Leduc: Complete Symphonic Works, conductor and annotator Michael Schneider of La Stagione Frankfurt lays the groundwork for designating Leduc, who died at age 34 or 35 in 1777, as a "French Mozart." From listening to the music, it is not so certain that such a comparison can be borne out; for one thing, the opening of the Symphony No. 2 in D betrays the unmistakable influence of "slightly more animated than usual" Mannheim School composer Christian Cannabich. In addition, Leduc was 14 years older than Mozart, and the three symphonies here, taken from early prints dating from the end of Leduc's life, hew closely to the three-movement model nurtured by Haydn from the 1760s. Taken on its own terms, however, Leduc's music is wonderful indeed, full of unusual, clashy Stürm und Drang effects; abrupt turns of phrase; and spirited, willful ideas. Where he came by his unusual style remains something of a puzzle, as he does not seem to have had any connection to the music of the Hamburg court as exemplified by Carl Philip Emanuel Bach, although some older French music bears traces of Stürm und Drang, mainly that of Lully and Rameau.
La Stagione Frankfurt's performances of Leduc are crisp and light on their feet, slow movements are handled with sensitivity, and the period natural horns sound especially good. Leduc's symphonies have been recorded once before for the French label Arion by the Versailles Chamber Orchestra; that was a long while back. While those recordings weren't bad, this one is a considerable improvement and also includes Leduc's highly interesting Orchestral Trios, as well. These were technically symphonies written without a viola part to facilitate performance as chamber music, and indeed, Grove's erroneously identifies them as chamber works only. Leduc's stormiest music is found in the G minor Orchestral Trio recorded here for the first time, and La Stagione Frankfurt's Simon Leduc: Complete Symphonic Works definitely leaves one hungry for more; only problem is that in Leduc's case, there is no "more."