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8.557163 - BOMTEMPO: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2
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João Domingos Bomtempo (1771-1842): Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2

João Domingos Bomtempo was born in Lisbon in 1771, the son of an Italian oboist, member of the orchestra of the Royal Court of Lisbon. He studied music in Lisbon’s Patriarchal Seminary, and in 1795, after his father’s death, he was appointed principal oboist of that orchestra. Unlike most Portuguese composers of the eighteenth century who went to Italy to pursue their musical studies, Bomtempo established himself in Paris in 1801. He was, certainly by nature as well as by education, a cosmopolitan personality, as may also be concluded by the fact that he was a free-mason. In Paris, and later in London, Bomtempo developed a brilliant career as a pianist and composer. A friend of Muzio Clementi, he absorbed the new pianistic style of this Italian composer, pedagogue and music publisher. The success of his public concerts led to the publication of his works by Leduc. After the first performance of his first symphony in Paris in 1809, he established himself in London. Clementi became his publisher, and his first symphony was published as Opus 11, in a four-hands piano version.

In 1820 Bomtempo returned to Lisbon, where in 1822 he founded the Philharmonic Society, with which he widely contributed toward the development of the Portuguese musical establishment. In 1833, when the Lisbon Conservatory of Music was founded, he was appointed its Director. He also published various pedagogical works, including a Method for the Piano and Elements of Music.

Bomtempo composed music for different musical ensembles. Among his works, the most important ones are, in addition to many compositions for the piano, his five concertos for piano and orchestra, his Requiem in Memory of Camões and the two symphonies here included, although early musicologists mention that he composed a total of six symphonies.

Symphony No.1 shows the influence of Haydn and Mozart. It follows the classical form despite the fact that the second movement is a Menuet, and not the usual Andante. The first movement has a slow introduction and its Allegro section follows sonata form. The Menuet has the usual contrasting Trio and the third movement (Andante sostenuto) develops along the lines of a free set of variations, with an emphasis on the use of the wind instruments. The work is scored for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns and timpani. The oldest existing copy of the full orchestral score is in the handwriting of a copyist. Curiously, it has no trumpets. Since the timpani part is independent of that of the horns, and since the symphonies which directly influenced Bomtempo do not use timpani without trumpets, I have added two trumpets to the timpani part. The score and parts of this symphony were published in 1963 by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon.

Symphony No. 2 is a work of much larger scope and dimension. Its musical style is clearly more Romantic than that of the first symphony and its form much broader and more fluid. Of particular interest is the lyricisim of the Allegro moderato, which follows the slow introduction of the first movement. Its sheer size reminds us of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. Equally original is the second movement, whose rhythmic character is interrupted by a theme which resembles more an operatic aria than the middle section of an orchestral slow movement. Also noteworthy is the ease with which the Trio becomes part of the Menuet and the freedom with which the Finale develops, always following the sonata form but without apparent submission to any pre-established musical form. The orchestration of the Second Symphony is the same as that of the first, with the addition of two trombones. Perhaps this indicates that Bomtempo may have known Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony at the time when he composed this work.

Álvaro Cassuto


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