About this Recording
8.572089 - WITT, F.: Symphony in C Major, "Jena" / Flute Concerto in G Major / Symphony in A Major (P. Gallois, Sinfonia Finlandia Jyvaskyla)
English  German 

Friedrich Witt (1770–1836)
Symphonies in C and A major • Flute Concerto in G major


Whatever his local reputation might have been in his own day, the German composer and cellist Friedrich Witt would have been forgotten by posterity, but for the accident of a misattribution of his Symphony in C major to Beethoven, whose name appeared on two of the surviving parts. It was in 1909 that Fritz Stein, Musical Director of the University of Jena, found, among the papers of the Academic Concerts there, the complete parts of a Symphony in C. On the second violin part was written ‘par Louis van Beethoven’ and on the cello part ‘Symphonie von Beethoven’, leading, in the absence of any title page, to the attribution of the symphony to the young Beethoven. This seemed to correspond to Beethoven’s own suggestion that he had once attempted a Symphony in C major on the model of Haydn’s Symphony No. 97, a work to which Witt’s symphony has some resemblance. Matters were put to rights when Robbins Landon found the parts for the symphony in the Abbey at Göttweig, duly attributed to Witt, whose authorship has generally remained undisputed since then.

Friedrich Witt was born in 1770 at Niederstetten, the son of a cantor and court clerk. In the late 1780s he entered the service of the court of Oettingen-Wallerstein as a cellist, taking composition lessons there with Antonio Rosetti (Anton Rösler), who was then Court Kapellmeister. It was in 1792 or 1793 that Haydn sent four of his new London Symphonies, Nos. 93, 96, 97 and 98, to Wallerstein, thus providing Witt with a pattern for his own work, notably the so-called Jena Symphony. Witt undertook concert tours in 1793 and 1794 in Thuringia and to the courts at Ludwigslust and Potsdam with the clarinettist Franz Joseph Beer, and in 1796 they went to Vienna, where Beer played a clarinet concerto written for him by Witt and one of the latter’s symphonies was played at the Augarten. There was no return to Wallerstein. In 1802, after the success of his oratorio Der leidende Heiland (The Suffering Saviour), Witt entered the service of the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg as Kapellmeister. The princedom was secularised in 1803, with the former reigning Prince continuing as Bishop, while from 1806 to 1814 the Grand Duke Ferdinand of Tuscany ruled what was now a Grand Duchy, before Würzburg became part of the Kingdom of Bavaria. These changes affected the music of the city, with the court chapel finally dissolved in 1814. From 1806 to 1808 Witt served as director of music at the Würzburg Theatre, for which he provided operas, now largely lost. He left Würzburg in 1824 and during his later years served for a time as a court composer of Prince Carl Friedrich zu Löwenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg.

Witt’s Symphony in C major dates from before 1796 and presumably after 1792 or early 1793, when Haydn’s new symphonies became available at Wallerstein. The symphony is scored for a flute, pairs of oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets and timpani, with strings. It opens with an Adagio introduction, followed by a sonata-form movement, with the exposition repeated and followed by a short development section, before the recapitulation. The F major slow movement, marked Adagio cantabile, is in 6/8, and, following the key-pattern of Haydn’s Symphony No. 97, has a middle section in F minor. The original key returns for the third movement, a Minuet and Trio, and is capped by an Allegro finale in which the wind instruments are treated with some independence.

The Symphony in A major dates from about 1790 and is scored for flute, pairs of oboes, bassoons and horns, and strings. It opens with a 16-bar Adagio introduction. The sonata-form Allegro vivace that follows entrusts the first subject to the strings. The repeated exposition leads to a relatively short development and a recapitulation. The second movement is a Minuet and Trio, the first violin melody of the latter doubled at the octave by the bassoon. The slow movement that follows, marked Andante, is in D major, the principal theme given first to the strings, and returning in varied figuration, as the movement progresses. The symphony ends with a sonata-form movement, an opera buffa finale, the exposition duly repeated, to be followed by a short development and the due return of the thematic material in recapitulation.

Witt’s Flute Concerto in G major, Op. 8, was published by Breitkopf und Härtel in Leipzig in 1806, and demands considerable virtuosity from the soloist. It is scored for pairs of oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets and timpani, with strings. The concerto starts with an orchestral exposition, introducing two contrasting subjects, followed by the entry of the solo flute with an elaborate first subject, leading to an A major secondary theme and material that offers every chance for technical display. The slow movement is a D major Adagio cantabile, introduced by the chords of bassoons and horns, accompanied by the plucked notes of cellos and double basses. The strings follow, leading to the first solo entry. The final Rondo entrusts the lively principal theme to the soloist. Contrasting episodes include a section in C major, leading to an E major Polonoise (sic) which explores the key of E minor, before the final return of the principal theme and the closing coda.

Keith Anderson

Close the window