Klassik  Sinfonische Musik
Reinhard Goebel & Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie Johann Christoph Vogel: Three Symphonies OC 735 CD
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FormatAudio CD
Ordering NumberOC 735
Release date09/02/2010
Players/ContributorsMusicians Composer
  • Vogel, Johann Christoph

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      Description hide

      bayerische kammerphilharmonie
      Reinhard Goebel, conductor

      Vogel’s most successful work was the oper “Démophon”, based on a libretto by Metastasio. Unfortunately, the composer never experienced the success of his work. Born in 1756 in Nuremberg (the same year as W.A. Mozart), Vogel died in 1788 in Paris, at only age 32. Christoph Willibald Gluck, the idol of his younger days, wrote to him after the premiere of his opera La toison d’or in 1786. “Your dramatic talent also enables your other qualities to appear in the bright light of day, and I thus congratulate you from the bottom of my heart. This talent is all the more seldom because it was not gained through experience but because it is a gift of nature.”
      Vogel’s “Three Symphonies for Large Orchestra” prove him to be a superior master of the French style. These works are heard on recording here for the first time.
      Reinhard Goebel, a musical pioneer who is intimately familiar with historical performance practice, has contributed to filling out our picture of the musical scene during W.A. Mozart’s time with this essential mosaic piece. Conducting the young musicians of the bayerische kammerphilharmonie, Goebel creates a highly virtuosic team that is capable of any musical adventure.

      J. Chr. Vogel – Three Symphonies

      There are now two operas with arias that I could write, one in two acts and the other in three… the one in three is Demofont by Metastasio, in translation, and mixed with choruses and dances and generally arranged for the French theater…”

      Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote these words to his father from Paris on July 3, 1778. Démophon did end up being composed, though not by Mozart, but by Luigi Cherubini in 1788. However, much more successful than Cherubini’s version was that by Johann Christoph Vogel, likewise written in 1788. Vogel presumably arrived in Paris at the same time as Mozart was leaving the French capital head over heels after an argument with Baron Grimm in September 1778.

      Johann Christoph Vogel was born in 1756 in Nuremberg, the offspring of a violin- and lute-building dynasty that can be traced back to the early 16th century. He studied composition in Regensburg with Josef Riepel (1709 – 1782), who had obtained his training from 1739 to 1745 in Dresden and experienced the great era of Zelenka, Pisendel and Hasse but could find no employment in the court orchestra there. Despite this, Riepel became an apologist for the Dresden school and wrote volumes of theoretical material that are still awaiting rediscovery. In Paris, Vogel played horn in various princely chapels – soon becoming known as a composer of sinfonia concertantes and oratorios. He wrote his first opera, La toison d’or, in 1786.

      Vogel had dedicated the printed edition of the work to his idol Christoph Willibald Gluck, who thanked him in a letter dated August 3, 1787. This letter, by the way, is the last known document in Gluck’s own hand. It was even promoted in the “Journal de Paris” as if it were of public interest!

      The letter read: “Esteemed Sir: Salieri has given me a copy of your first opera La toison d’or, which you dedicated to me. My eyes hardly allow me to read any longer, but Salieri gave me the pleasure of playing this music, which is so worthy of the praise given to you by Paris, on the harpsichord. Your dramatic talent also enables your other qualities to appear in the bright light of day, and I thus congratulate you from the bottom of my heart. This talent is all the more seldom because it was not gained through experience but because it is a gift of nature. Mr. Salieri has also reported to me all the praise he has heard about your second work. God grant that it will contribute as much to your fame as I myself wish you, and that you will become a most famous composer. Please be assured of all my sentiments: Yours, Gluck”

      To understand this letter, one must know that music – especially opera in pre-revolutionary France – was used to discuss subjects that could not actually be debated in the appropriate social settings. After the constantly critical Parisian dandies had driven Gluck out, or more accurately, browbeaten him out – after all, his nationality and language were the same as the beheaded Marie Antionette – they invited Johann Christian Bach to Paris. His Amadis de Gaule, however, did not end up finding favor with all. Sacchini and Piccinni were next. Basically, all of these were consummate composers – as Mozart in 1778 – but they didn’t know what they had to argue for or what they were supposed to stand up for. This was an old game of the Parisians, who had already shot down Marc-Antoine Charpentier and Jean- Marie Leclair – two real geniuses – on their own playing field and had constantly maltreated Rameau. In the final analysis, it was a fight over the priority of Italian or French musical taste: “Un roi, un loi, une foi” (one king, one law, one faith) – and if that’s the case, shouldn’t there only be one type of music too?

      The premiere of La toison d’or (1786) had been preceded by performances of compositions by Vogel in the “Concert Spirituel”. In these, the composer was very skillful at casting popular artists as protagonists in his works: Antoine Hugot (1761–1803) played the flute, Etienne Ozy (1754–1813) the bassoon, Jean Lebrun (1759 –1809) the horn and Michel Yost (1754 –1786) the clarinet. The compositional symbiosis that united Vogel and Yost was an open secret: Michel Yost wrote solo lines that “fit him like a glove” and then had Vogel orchestrate them. These disastrous compositions were then sold, however, as “composed by M. Michel” …

      The Trois Sinfonies recorded here for the first time were published in 1784 with printed orchestral parts of the highest quality. But they are yet another representation of the crisis of the symphony as was being noticed in Northern Germany, London and Paris with a feeling of unease. The genre ( at least here) had reached its limits. Listeners had heard enough impressively orchestrated arpeggios, primarily in D and A major, or powerfully inflated unison passages. The sighing, expiring slow movements with swarms of triplets in the inner voices were no longer “à la mode”. One couldn’t even give the French a small pleasure with pizzicatos or “con sordino”: they rejected these sounds as “adulterations”!

      Although the middle movements of the second and third symphonies presented a possible way out of the crisis, the use of sinfonia concertante elements contradicted the concept of the symphony as a work “for orchestra”. Consequently, it seemed better to solve the problem of the middle movement by using a theme and variations, as Vogel had already done in the first symphony. In actual fact, however, all of the Gordian knots in the concerts of the “Loge Olympique”, which took place in a room at the Tuileries palace (like the “Concert Spirituel”) ended up being solved. The series’ competitors hit upon the glorious idea of commissioning Joseph Haydn in Eisenstadt to write six symphonies. Fortunately, Haydn was uncompromising in his refusal to orient himself to a model for these works (one that still remained to be sent). Instead, he caught the French unawares with his symphonies 82 –87, which contained the formerly forbidden menuet, and instead of the intolerable amount of repetition of previously used material (Mozart’s “Paris” Symphony also suffers from a 40 % surplus of such repetition), Haydn places thematic work and all types of surprising developments in the foreground.

      Vogel’s Premier Livre represents the most highly developed type of French symphony, with all of its valid parameters, that could be found on the eve of the Haydn-hype triggered by the 65-member orchestra of the “Loge Olympique”, which violently swept away all aesthetic rules that had applied until that moment. In the place of social “feel-good” music – Vogel’s music is full of such coquettish moments that audiences were used to greeting with applause, even during running performances – cropped up an autonomous artwork that no longer permitted the intervention of young fops and powdered ladies. There are good reasons why one thus searches in vain for a “Deuxième Livre des Sinfonies”…

      “Whom the gods love…” – Démophon had not even been presented before Vogel was buried, dead of alcoholism. But due to its subject – audiences saw the same events on stage that were happening outside the doors of the opera house as well as in the streets and on the squares of revolutionary Paris – this opera remained an absolute hit and was performed until 1820. But the plan to raise a monument to its composer ended up being forgotten. This recording, made with the bayerische kammerphilharmonie in cooperation with the Studio Franken (situated in Nuremberg where Vogel was born) and OehmsClassics, however, makes up for that!

      Reinhard Goebel
      Translation: Elizabeth Gahbler

      Tracklist hide

      CD 1
      • Symphony No. 1 in D major
        • 1.Allegro09:32
        • 2.Andante04:15
        • 3.Presto06:45
      • Symphony No. 2 in E-flat major
        • 4.Allegro moderato06:18
        • 5.Adagio04:37
        • 6.Poco presto05:41
      • Symphony No. 3 in B-flat major
        • 7.Allegro molto07:38
        • 8.Adagio06:11
        • 9.Presto07:05
      • Total:58:02