Victor Carr Jr.
, March 2001
"Etienne-Nicolas Méhul (1763-1817) was one of the most important French composers who lived at the time of the French Revolution. Beethoven is said to have admired Méhul's music, and even was influenced by him in his own Fidelio. Known primarily a theatre composer, Méhul composed several instrumental works as well, including five symphonies (the fifth was incomplete and unperformed). Symphony No. 1 bears the clear influence of Haydn in its brilliantly contrasted first movement, and especially in the innovative pizzicato scherzo. The finale is striking for its dramatic main theme, an insistent repeated note figure that suggests similarities with Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
"The Second Symphony presents a more lyrical countenance, sounding very much like the youthful symphonies of Franz Schubert, though with greater contrapuntal sophistication. This perpetually sunny work makes novel and, one could say, Beethovenian use of the timpani in the finale, making for a satisfyingly buoyant ending. Both symphonies receive vibrant and stylish performances by Jorge Rotter and the Rhenish Philharmonic, who play Méhul as if he's someone you should get to know (and you should), and it's supported by big, warm sound from Naxos' engineers."