Johann Nepomuk David Symphonies 2 & 4 tinged with melancholy

This release contrasts two symphonies written by Johann Nepomuk David. Symphony No. 2 Op. 20 was completed in 1938, right before World War II. Symphony No. 4 Op. 39 dates from 1948 — immediately after the war.

David’s style was an absorbant sponge that soaked up many influences: Anton Bruckner, Johannes Brahms, Joseph Marx, Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, and Claude Debussy — just to name a few. David’s music mixes together these disparate sources in unusual and interesting ways.

His second symphony is densely contrapuntal– reflecting his love of Max Reger and Johann Sebastian Bach. The Medieval tune L’homme armé (foundation for many a Medieval and Renaissance work), serves as the symphony’s cantus firmus.

David’s harmonies sometimes resemble Wagner’s, other times early Stravinsky. Because of the cross-connections of the motifs, the work stands as a cohesive whole.

The original version of Symphony No. 4, Op. 39, was destroyed in an air raid (along with most of David’s manuscripts) in 1943. David completed the reconstruction in 1948.

The symphony grows out of the opening material. The motifs are worked and reworked throughout the entire work. The inspirations for David in this work are less obvious than in his second symphony.

The harmonies are still mostly tonal, but David is speaking his own language here. David seems to have more control over his resources, with defter, more original orchestration than in his prewar symphony.

David lost his home and his music manuscripts in the war. Many of his former students were killed in action. David wanted to write absolute music, but he’s not quite successful. This symphony has a streak of melancholy buried deep within it.

The ORF Radio Symphonieorchester Wien directed by Johannes Wilder turn in another set of fine performances. I enjoyed their work on the first CPO David symphony release. These recordings maintain the same high standards.

I’m looking forward to the next installment.

Johann Nepomuk David: Symphonies 2 & 4
ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien; Johannes Wildner, conductor
CPO 777 577-2

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