Although mostly unknown today, Johann Evangelist Brandl was a well-respected composer and violinist at the turn of the 19th Century. His Op. 17 string quartets were dedicated to Haydn. In his later years, he was first violinist of the ducal orchestra in Karlsruhe. He eventually became the orchestra’s music director, working under kapellmeister Franz Danzi.
Brandl’s 1796 Symphony in E-flat major, Op. 12 represents an early foray into the genre. It was contemporary with Haydn’s final symphonies and follows the same general outline. The first movement has a slow introduction. There’s a slow second movement, a third movement minuet, and a fast finale in triple time.
Brandl, like Haydn and Mozart, effectively builds his themes from simple scales and chord patterns. He differentiates himself with his extensive use of winds throughout the work.
His Op. 25 Symphony in D major is a more adventurous work. Published in 1803, its highly chromatic harmonic motion looks ahead to the Romantic period. I was reminded of Weber’s symphonies. Brandl’s symphonies might be considered transitional, but I found them worth listening to. They’re tightly constructed works, with few extraneous notes.
The Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pflaz has a rich, full sound. Kevin Griffiths finds a good balance between the lightness of the Classical style and the emotional weight of the Romantic era. It’s just the right place for these works.
Johann Evangelist Brandl: Symphonies Op. 12 & Op. 25
Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pflaz; Kevin Griffiths, conductor
CPO 555 157-2