Johann Wilhelm Wilms

0 of 5 stars

Symphony No.6 in D minor, Op.58
Symphony No.7 in C minor [without opus number]

Concerto Köln
Werner Ehrhardt (violin)

Recorded February 2003 in Sendesaal Deutschlandfunk Köln

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: July 2004
474 508-2
Duration: 61 minutes

These two symphonies by a composer worthy of attention are recorded for the first time. Johann Wilhelm Wilms (1772-1847) left his native Germany for Amsterdam and flourished there. Wilms wrote seven symphonies. The final one was presumed lost until recently, and its first complete performance was in 2002. Written early in the 1830s, it captures something of the charge of post-Revolution Paris.

Both these symphonies are in four movements and play for around 30 minutes; the scoring is for a classical orchestra with three trombones added for the C minor work. The established basis of Haydn and Mozart is exploited, so too the dynamism of Beethoven, while some melodic contours remind of the seemingly carefree ditties that Schubert could effortlessly introduce. Wilms is equally seamless.

These symphonies’ shared characteristics include an arresting forward momentum and beguiling contrasts of character and dynamics. And although Wilms’s melodic writing may not be immediately distinctive, his ideas are inventive and ample enough to build powerful structures, and there’s an imposing sonority and lucid direction in evidence, as well as terrific energy and confidence. The slow movements are delightfully lyrical, the scherzos robust and virile, and just as one thinks that the outer movements are becoming relentless, Wilms introduces something lighter as respite from his headlong industry.

These virtuoso, insightful and committed performances by the historically-informed Concerto Köln are colourful, mellifluous and sonorous, its sound recognisably ‘authentic’ and its response sensitive and vital. Indeed, one senses the corporate conviction for this music and marvels at the unanimity of the playing unleashed from the first-violinist’s desk. A superbly immediate and vivid recording sets the seal on a very distinguished issue.

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