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CD Review

Friedrich Witt

Orchestral Works

  • Symphony #6 in A minor "Sinfonie turque" (24:39)
  • Flute Concerto in G Major (22:46) *
  • Symphony #9 in D minor (26:14)
Susanne Barner, flute
Hamburg Symphony Orchestra/Johannes Moesus
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG3291299-2 74m DDD
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This is a gem of a disc. If you think of Barry Manilow without the schmaltz, Friedrich Witt is the outcome. He was quite a tunesmith, offering such fetching melodies at will. Perhaps of even greater significance, he had an unerring sense of rhythmic flow and continuity.

However, all is not in glorious condition. Witt's music is strongly Mozartian in phrasing and flavor, so much so that he sometimes sounds like a clone of the famous composer. My first reservation is that nobody does Mozart as well as Mozart himself, and I have hundreds of Mozart recordings to choose from when I want to listen to his music. My second reservation is of a more objective nature and concerns development sections and other parts of works where the main themes are reshaped. The great composers not only reshape in compelling fashion, they actually reinvent as well. These features are lacking in the Witt program, as his development and recapitulation sections are quite ordinary and ultimately redundant. As an example, the 9-minute 1st Movement of the Sinfonie turque simply does not possess sufficient material to warrant its length; the wonderful exposition with a fine coda would erase any notion of note-spinning and represent a very compelling movement of music. Of course, sonata form was the rage of Witt's time, and he was hardly a man to go against the established musical order.

Moesus and his Hamburg forces certainly give their all to the production, and soloist Susanne Barner is in fine form with her limpid and clear tones. The sonics are up-to-date although some listeners might prefer a richer soundstage.

Don's Conclusions: The Hyperion recording offers show piece music that is pleasing but has little more to offer. The Authentic Quartet's extremely well-scrubbed performances likely do not show Lickl's music in its best light, but I doubt that alternative versions are on the horizon. Last, but best, is the MD&G/Witt disc featuring some beautifully spun music in splendid performances; If you love Mozart, consider Witt a man you want to hear.

Copyright © 2005/2006, Don Satz