Jiri Malát / Krupfälzisches Kammerorchester Mannheim

Symphonies D-Dur & G-Dur etc

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Christian Cannabich was, along with Franz Xaver Richter, a predominant figure in the Mannheim School and a significant composer of symphonies in the classical period; he wrote 74 or more of them, making Cannabich one of the all-time champions among symphony composers in terms of sheer production. However, Cannabich did not figure -- like Quantz, the brothers Stamitz, Richter, and Dittersdorf -- among those eighteenth century composers whose works were published by the boatload in series like Dilletto Musicale, publications designed mainly to keep musicologists busy in the 1960s and '70s. Cannabich was obscure, even to the editors of such periodicals, and has had to wait for postmodern houses like Artaria Editions to take up his cause. This was fortuitous, as it prevented the spread of bad editions of Cannabich's work and ensured that its exploitation was reserved for editors for whom the music of the eighteenth century is a serious matter.

Too bad this same sense of seriousness isn't taken by Arte Nova, whose Christian Cannabich: Orchestral Works, featuring the Kurpfälzisches Chamber Orchestra under Jìrí Malát, was originally released in 1998 and was the first all-Cannabich CD to be offered. Arte Nova did not then, nor in this 2008 reissue version marketed through Allegro Corporation, take the time to divine just which symphonies of Cannabich they were recording; they are shown only as "Sinfonia in D major" and "Sinfonia in G major," keys in which Cannabich produced a dozen or more symphonies. In addition, there is a Sinfonia Concertante in two movements only, for which oboes are substituted for the violin parts -- all right, there are such works in just two movements from the eighteenthcentury, and such substitution was a common practice. However, what of the Triple Concerto in C for flute, oboe, and bassoon, which is only one movement long? Are there other movements, or is it a fragment or possibly just an excerpt? We are not so informed; the notes don't say whether there are other movements, or if the work is a fragment, or possibly just an excerpt.

As to the performances, they are OK; the horns are a little loose in the Sinfonia in D major, and one wonders if they might have sounded a bit truer had horns with valves been utilized rather than natural ones. Overall, the ensemble is enthusiastic about the music, but a bit ragged at the edges, which, from what we know of Cannabich, is just the sort of interpretation the composer himself would never have allowed. However, as the first of its kind, the Arte Nova's Christian Cannabich: Orchestral Works is an admirable achievement for the Kurpfälzisches Chamber Orchestra, though is little else.

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