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David Hurwitz
ClassicsToday.com, March 2010

…these works are well worth getting to know, and happily the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra under Aapo Häkkinen plays them stylishly and with plenty of expressive force. The harpsichord continuo sounds a touch dry, but it happily doesn’t overwhelm the larger string ensemble as so often happens in music of this period, turning the works into de facto keyboard concertos…



Paul Turok
Turok’s Choice, December 2009

Franz Xaver Richter was an important composer of symphonies when the form was first being invented. Six of his works from 1744 are strikingly played by the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra, under Aapo Häkkinen (8.57097).



Barry Brenesal
Fanfare, November 2009

These symphonies, among his earliest works known to us, are much closer to the Italian Baroque model, derived from opera overtures. Four out of six of the symphonies in the present set (and five out of six in the previous one) are in three movements, while all show an influence of Vivaldi in their extensive use of harmonic sequencing. Thematically, Richter is sometimes closer to the galant, as the opening of the Sinfonia IX in A Major reveals—though the tonic cadence to the movement’s only theme turns out to be false, suddenly veering into two-part counterpoint before returning to previous material. It is as though a Baroque Neapolitan were to have found himself years later with the resources of Mannheim’s great orchestra at his disposal: for there are many novelties of the time (jagged thematic leaps, bold harmonic progressions, sighs, lengthy homophonic passages) deployed within slow movements redolent of Italianate lyricism, and fast movements notable for their active bass and contrapuntal expertise.

Aapo Häkkinen leads sparkling performances from the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra, whose vibratoless tone is “plushed up” through a recording in Espoo’s reverberant Sello Concert Hall. Tempos are sensibly chosen, and balance good between the sectional divisions. There’s a genuine sense of theater about some of this, such as the brief Andante to the Sinfonia VII in C Major, all the more appropriate in that Richter, at that point in his life, was renowned as an operatic bass in the Italianate repertoire so beloved by Carl Theodor.

In short, if you enjoyed the previous release in this series (Naxos 8.557818), you’ll certainly want to buy its continuation as well. If you haven’t tried either, but like music that stands on the cusp between the Baroque and early Classical periods, drawing in unpredictable fashion from both, look no further.



Carl Bauman
American Record Guide, November 2009

The symphonies are actually richer harmonically than the works of many of his contemporaries, such as Johann Stamitz. They are quite typical of very early symphonies. Four are in three movements, and two are in four. They tend to have a driving intensity in the quick movements and richly expressive harmonies in the slow movements.

The Helsinki Baroque Orchestra is perfectly suited to them with its 13 string instruments and harpsichord. The recording is superb…



Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, July 2009

Richter is one of the Mannheim School of early classical mainstays, associated with names such as Fiala, Krommer-Kramar, Masek, and Zelenka, to name just a few. These were all serious, able composers, whose works paved the way to the flowering of the classical era. The Helsinki musicians play stylishly and with verve and enjoy excellent acoustical quality. At just under 80 minutes, this CD is a real find.



Brian Wilson
MusicWeb International, June 2009

This completes the Naxos recording of the twelve Sinfonias or Grandes Symphonies which F X Richter composed around 1740 and published in Paris in 1744, the first six of which appeared on 8.557818.  Tim Perry welcomed that first volume: “If you have any interest in “big C” Classical music, you will enjoy this disc”.

I came to this CD straight after listening to some of the Haydn symphonies on Volume 4 of the Nimbus Austro-Hungarian Orchestra/Adam Fischer series, a pretty hard act to follow.  How would the Richter recording stand up against the competition?  In fact, neither the music nor the performance are put to shame by the comparison and the recording is very good, too.  Richter may not be quite as endlessly inventive and varied as Haydn and the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra not quite as light on its toes as the Austro-Hungarian players, but the music is very enjoyable and the performances are very good.

These symphonies predate Richter’s arrival in Mannheim in 1746, so they don’t provide examples of what came to be known as the Mannheim Rocket or Steamroller, though there’s plenty of drive and energy in the outer movements.  There’s plenty of tenderness, too, in the slow movements.  The outer movements of Symphony No.27 (tracks 14–16) contain plenty of g-minor drama—somewhat reminiscent of Vivaldi at his most impassioned.

For a composer who had been raised on the theories of Fux in his Gradus ad Parnassum, and whose own treatise Harmonische Belehrungen leans heavily on the earlier composer, his music is surprisingly advanced for the 1740s.  Allan Badley’s notes, like the articles in the Shorter Grove and the Oxford Companion to Music, describe Richter’s music as conservative in style by comparison with that of his Mannheim contemporaries and heavily reliant on counterpoint, so his music is closer to J.S. or CPE Bach than to Haydn and Mozart.  In the event, however, if I’d turned on Radio 3 and tried to guess, I’d have placed the music rather later than 1740, with its elements of the baroque, galant, and even some elements of the classical styles.

Recent scholarly editions, by Allan Badley, who has also written the notes, and published by Naxos’s associate, Artaria, are employed.

I can’t improve on TP’s description of the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra under Aapo Häkkinen as a bit of a find and a world-class period ensemble.  I hadn’t heard them before; I very much hope that more of their recordings come my way.  The ensemble is small—4+4 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos and double bass.  It appears that two keyboard instruments were employed for the recording; as well as the one from which Häkkinen presumably directs, a second is listed.

The Naxos recording is close but not too close.  It even allowed me to hear the harpsichord in places, the lack of which has been one of my recent complaints about several recordings.  I don’t want it in my lap—it isn’t here—but I don’t want it to be so discrete that I can’t hear it.

Allan Badley’s notes are scholarly and readable and the presentation is up to Naxos’s usual high standards, even if the cover picture of Mannheim is slightly inappropriate for music composed before Richter got there.

I certainly intend to obtain the earlier Naxos CD now.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2009

What did Franz Xaver Richter do in the first thirty-one years of his life? The earliest record of his name came in 1740 as vice-Kapellmeister in Kempton, Allgau, the two books of ‘Six Grandes Symphonies’ being published four years later in Paris. They show a highly trained musician who was acutely aware of rich harmonic progressions and symphonic form. If he was not in the vanguard of modernity, he had developed a style that he would pass down and use two decades later in Haydn’s early symphonies. In fact you could prefer Richter to Haydn at that time. In his later life he became a reactionary against indulgent virtuosity, though his scores are far from easy to play. Certainly he was a person who could use very little thematic material to create a worthwhile movement, as exemplified in the short falling subject that gave him a finale to Sinfonia VIII or No. 59 of this second book (track 6). But the main feature of his music is its charm, while he can make the fugue in the second movement of Sinfonia X or No. 83 so totally enjoyable. The Helsinki Baroque Orchestra, a period instrument group of thirteen strings and harpsichord, was formed a decade ago, the sound more mellow than many similar groups. Directed from the keyboard by Aapo Häkkinen, my one reservation is the lack of real drive in the eleventh’s [No. 27] opening Spiritoso. The playing is nicely detailed with faultless intonation and very good internal balance. To include all six is a tight squeeze, and I much prefer the more immediate sound to the distanced perspective of the earlier disc.  






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