Hof-Capelle Carlsruhe’s Schmittbauer hommage an unusual mix

The Hof-Capelle Carlsruhe’s first collection of Karlsruhe court music featured works by Johann Molter, with some filler by his contemporaries. This volume brings one of those composers — Joseph Aloys Schmittbauer — to the fore.

Schmittbauer was a well-respected composer and organist. One of his distinctions was copying Benjamin Franklin’s glass harmonica and then improving upon it.

This homage features three of his works for glass harmonica.  They’re modest in scope, and perhaps that’s what makes them work so well. Schmittbauer takes full advantage of the capabilities of the instrument. The long decay of the notes is treated almost like pedaling in a piano to connect chords and melodic figures.

Verrophon (glass harmonica) soloist Philipp Marguerre performs these works with great sensitivity. His skill brings out the best in these works — and the instrument.

Some of Schmittbauer’s chamber music had been misattributed to Haydn. Listening to the symphonies on this release, one can understand why. They’re models of early classical era clarity. Schmittbauer lays out his themes in a straight-forward fashion, then develops them in elegant modulations. Schmittbauer follows the models of the Mannheim School and does so quite well.

But two of these symphonies were written in 1795 — seven years after Mozart’s “Jupiter” symphony, and the same year as Beethoven’s first symphony and Haydn’s Symphony No. 104.  Placed in context, Schmittbauer’s symphonies sound somewhat old-fashioned. But that doesn’t diminish from their enjoyment by a 21st Century listener!

The Hof-Capelle Carlsruhe performs with enthusiasm and energy, which makes the symphonies fun to listen to. I thought the harpsichord a little too prominent in the mix for my taste, however. It gave the ensemble a slight metallic edge I don’t remember hearing in their previous recording.

Hommage a Joseph Aloys Schmittbauer
Hof-Capelle Carlsruhe
Profil CD PH18064

More Recent Posts