I find Cipriani Potter a fascinating figure. This composer, pianist, and educator was a major influence in British music. Perhaps more than most people know.
He studied with Joseph Wölfl, a colleague of both Mozart and Beethoven. Potter visited Vienna in 1817. Beethoven declined to accept him as a student. But he did review and comment on some of Potter’s music.
Upon returning to England, Potter championed both Mozart’s and Beethoven’s piano concertos. He joined the faculty of the Royal Academy of music in 1822. As the conductor of its orchestra, he promoted the music of Schumann and Brahms.
So what was his own music like? This release provides a good overview. It includes the first of Potter’s nine symphonies. It also features an overture and a short work for piano and orchestra.
Potter’s Symphony No. 1 in G minor was written in 1819, and revised twice. It’s a well-constructed work. Potter greatly admired Mozart and Beethoven. Yet this symphony doesn’t seem to have a lot of their influence (at least to my ears).
Instead, Potter provides his own take on the early 19th-Century symphonic style. It has the lightness of Mozart and Mendelssohn, with some of Beethoven’s drama. I found it quite enjoyable.
The Introduction and Rondo Alla Militaire for piano and orchestra seem inspired by Beethoven. Judging by the solo part, Potter was a talented pianist. While he didn’t have Beethoven’s fire, his music is still quite engaging.
Claire Huangci performs with lyrical dexterity. I found her good-natured approach both charming and entertaining.
Howard Griffiths gives this music some spirited readings. Potter the composer had something to say beyond homages to Mozart and Beethoven. Griffiths lets him say it.
Well-performed and worth listening to.
Cipriani Potter: Symphony No. 1
Overture Cybelene; Introduzione e Rondo for Piano and Orchestra
Claire Huangci, piano
BBC National Orchestra of Wales; Howard Griffiths, conductor