Herschel: Six Symphonies – No 14 in D major; No 8 in C minor; No 2 in D major; No 12 in D major; No 17 in C major; No 13 in D major
Reviewed on Wed 08 Jan, 2014
Although his musical achievements were to be eclipsed (pardon the pun) by his later astronomical discoveries, William Herschel (1738-1822) was no mere dilettante. Trained as a musician in his native Germany he spent his first 20 years in England, up to the end of the 1770s, conducting, teaching, performing and composing. Written between 1760 and 1762, the six symphonies enterprisingly resurrected here by Matthias Bamert for Chandos’s 'Contemporaries of Mozart' series only just pre-date the arrival in England of another German, Johann Christian Bach, and display a similar if less fully developed commitment to the new melody-driven galant style, as well as hints of the new sonata form being developed back in Germany by JC’s older brother, CPE Bach. Admirers of those composer’s works will find much to enjoy in Herschel’s unfailingly elegant compositions, even if their formulaic structure and inflexible tonic-dominant tonality betray a lack of strong musical personality.