Monday, November 16, 2015

FESCA Symphony No. 1, Three Overtures

The excavation of the symphonists who labored in Beethoven's shadow has yielded some worthwhile music (by Kalliwoda, for example), and plenty more music that was set aside with the crystallization of the canon is on the way. Here Germany's North German Radio Philharmonic (NDR Radiophilharmonie) offers music by Friedrich Ernest Fesca (1789-1826), a Magdeburg-born musician who was better known as a violinist than as a composer. A sampling of a companion disc on CPO containing his second and third symphonies suggests that it might be the Fesca disc to try; the Symphony No. 1, composed in 1812, is closely modeled on Mozart's Symphony No. 39, K. 543, with a dash of Haydn's motivic work in the outer movements thrown in for good measure. 

It's competently done, but the music of the teenaged Rossini or Mendelssohn has considerably more melodic interest. Fesca later moved into theatrical music, and the three overtures that round out the disc, from the last years of his short life (he suffered from some kind of chronic lung disease) are more imposing, if rather episodic in character; they have hints of Weber's language but not of the Egmont Overture. The NDR orchestra throws itself into the project with admirable zest, and there's absolutely nothing unpleasant about this disc -- but also nothing to make you want to hear it twice.

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