Second installment of Koželuch symphonies from Naxos

Koželuch: Symphonies, Vol. 2

Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice, Marek Štilec

Leopold Koželuch (26.01.1747 – 07.05.1818) was a Czech keyboard virtuoso and composer who spent his working life in Vienna. He produced many works involving piano, including concertos, chamber works and solo compositions. But his output also encompassed a substantial number of works for orchestra and according to the helpful booklet notes, by Allan Badley, the composer left sixteen surviving symphonies and two symphonies concertantes. Marek Štilec plans to record all of these and this is the second release in a planned four volume series.

At the time of his death Koželuch was a much respected composer and musician. His reputation faded over the next decades in the shadow of the great Beethoven and his work was in danger of being forgotten. It is good to see his output getting an airing once more on the Naxos label.

Listening to these symphonies it becomes evident that Koželuch was clearly an inspired craftsman and that his writing demands a level of virtuosity from the players. In truth these are not game-changing examples of the genre, but neither are they inconsequential pieces that deserve to be consigned to history. They are quality works which stand on their own, with a unique sense of identity that distinguishes them from the works of Koželuch’s more famous contemporaries.

Marek Štilec draws some fine playing from the members of the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice and all concerned show a belief in the music that prevents the listener from feeling that there is anything routine about these works. These are  sparkling performances and the minuets in the Symphony in F major and Symphony in G Major, Op. 24 No. 3 are both delivered with a sense of charm and grace that will have you wanting to get out of your chair and dance!

Anyone who appreciates pre-romantic symphonies of the classical period will thoroughly enjoy the works on this beautifully recorded Naxos release and I can recommend it wholeheartedly to all who fall in this category. Naxos has produced another winner and I am now looking forward to the forthcoming releases in this bargain-priced series.

iClassical rating: