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Tom Moore
Fanfare, April 2001

"I have had a favorable opinion of Ignace Pleyel's gifts as a composer since making the acquaintance of his flute quartets Ben 387 389 (originally published 1798), and find it surprising that his charming and well-made music is not more widely performed. Rita Benton's catalog of his work is a real monument, given the fecundity of the composer and the plethora of editions of his work during his life. The man produced at least 41 symphonies, of which few are recorded as yet (Richard Burke reviewed a recent set from Bamert on Chandos in 21:1). The three presented here are early works, dating from 1778 (Ben 121) and 1786 (Ben 128 and 138).

"Pleyel shows a particular aptitude for the beautiful cantabile melody, so much so that it is surprising that he was not drawn to the stage. The slow movement of 128 is lovely, with some adventurous harmonic shifts. The symphony closes with a fizzing Italian rondo. Though 138 in the minor (or at least its outer movements), it would not be entirely accurate to described them as Sturm and Drang - these are light clouds flitting by, not existential thunderheads. Ben 121 begins with a minor introduction, but the 3/4 movement that follows is pompous and romantic, with rushing scales and punctuation from the trumpets. This is probably the strongest of the three works. ...The performances of the Capella Istropolitana are fleet and assured."

Stanley Sadie
Gramophone, January 2001

"Symphonies by a largely unknown Haydn pupil who, on this distinctiveevidence, deserves far wider currency.

"This admirable series from Naxos continues to give us recordings of classical symphonies, a context for the great achievements of Haydn and Mozart. This time it is Ignace Pleyel Austrian-born but remembered more for what he later did in Paris (as instrument maker and publisher- he invented the miniature score) than for his music. A pity, because it's very good. Pleyel was a Haydn pupil and learnt his lessons well, on this evidence. He was criticized then, and still is now, as derivative; but although he uses various of Haydn's devices, the musical personality that comes through is to my mind quite individual.

"The earliest of the symphonies, Ben121 of 1778, is a substantial piece, nearly half-an-hour long, with a solemn and dramatic slow introduction and a first movement of splendid energy and drive, in triple metre, with lots of noise from the trumpets and drums, and interesting thematic treatment and modulations in the development. The spacious finale is another big and energetic piece. There is a lot to enjoy in the other symphonies, too, both of them from 1786 and notice ably more classical in tone. Try, for example, the vivacious opening movement of the C major work, or its Adagio, an eloquent piece with hints of darkness, or the finale with its busy, oddly twisty theme; or in the F minor work the urgent first movement, with its persistent figures and its fiery development, or the expressive Andante, where the accompanying textures are so tellingly managed. Note, too, the ways Pleyel teases the ear, prolonging phrases, moving in unexpected directions, and so on. ...Pleyel is well worth a hearing. These modern-instrument performances are well judged and have plenty of vitality and sensitively chosen tempos, and the Bratislava group play with skill. There is an excellent, informative note by the New Zealand scholar, Allan Badley."

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