The Haydenseque Fantasies of Sigismund Neukomm

Sigismund von Neukomm was a student of both Michael and Franz Joseph Haydn. He helped with the production of some of Mozart’s late compositions, and worked with Haydn on the editing and arranging of Haydn’s music. At one point, he even taught Mozart’s son composition. As one might expect, his musical style shares many similarities to those of his famous colleagues.

The earliest fantasy on this disc dates from 1806, the second 1808, and the latest from 1823 — but there’s little difference in style between them. All have a light, transparent sound of Mozart and Haydn. Neukomm’s music is very clean and precise, with everything laid out and organized in a sensible fashion. Neukomm’s melodies aren’t quite as memorable as Mozart’s but they do have the same natural flow and charming simplicity to them.

By contrast, the Grande Sinfomie heroique has a bigger feel than the fantasies on this disc. The orchestration is more varied, and the drama’s heightened. If the other three works were comparable to middle period Haydn, then this would be more early Beethoven and late Mozart. The work never loses its sense of balance and proportion (so think of a very polite Beethoven), but it has greater energy than the orchestral fantasies.

Michael Willens directs with a light touch, and you can hear subtle inflections in the phrasing that bring this music even closer to the Mozartian ideal. Highly recommended for any fan of the classical era.

Sigismund von Neukomm: Grande Sinfoie Heroique & 3 Fantasies
Die Kolner Akademie; Michael Alexander Willens, conductor

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