Franz Krommer Symphonies Emulate Beethoven

Franz Krommer lived somewhat in the shadow of Beethoven. In 1813 he replaced Leopold Kozeluch (a rival of Beethoven’s) as the Austrian Imperial Court Composer. And that meant his subsequent symphonies, string quartets, and concertos competed with Beethoven’s for the same audience.

To my ears, it’s easy to hear Beethoven’s influence in these works. Symphony No. 6 in D major begins with big, majestic chords that fall away and build again. It reminded me strongly of Beethoven’s Second Symphony. The minuetto also has a Beethovenian bounce to it.

But Beethoven’s second symphony premiered in 1805, and Krommer’s sixth in 1823. By that time, Beethoven had written all but his ninth. So the sound, while in line with Beethoven’s also (to me) sounded a little old-fashioned. I suspect, though, that audiences of the day were quite fine with that. By the 1820s they were probably finally able to appreciate early Beethoven.

Krommer’s Symphony No. 9 was completed in 1830, four years after Beethoven’s Ninth. The symphony still shows strong influence by Beethoven, but here Krommer seems to have been inspired more by Beethoven’s 7th (along with key concepts from the third and fifth).

Neither work was cutting edge in its day, but that doesn’t mean they are without merit — or originality. Krommer uses some unusual chord progressions that owe their origins to his native Czechoslovakia. These give the symphonies a fresh sound — and out of the realm of Beethoven sound-alikes.

The Orchestra della Svizzera italiana directed by Howard Griffiths has a satisfyingly powerful sound. These performances imbue the works with drama and energy. Recommended.

Franz Krommer: Symphonies Nos. 6 and 9
Orchestra della Svizzera italiana
Howard Griffiths, conductor
CPO 555 327-2

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