Not just a Great Astronomer
Robert F. Royce | Northford, CT USA | 10/12/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Conventional wisdom has routinely advanced the idea that the father of modern astronomy, the incomparable and brilliant William Herschel, was in his youth a lack-luster composer who was fortunate enough to find a new planet and a well-paying career. Nothing could be further from the truth. Herschel was quite a good composer and very successful in his own time. While organist at the Octagon Chapel in Bath (and through other musical efforts) he earned £400 per year, a lot of money back then. Since 1974 I have been spending considerable time studying and arranging for performances of Herschel's music and it's far better stuff than the average for the period. The scientific mind can clearly be seen working even in his early 20s creating complex and interesting music.
The present recording is a very well-performed collection of six of his 24 symphonies. All 24 are three movement works ranging in orchestration from strings only to 'full' orchestras of oboes, horns trumpets and drums. The structural content of these works is highly organized and carefully worked out. Stylistically, Sturm and drang elements common to C.P.E. Bach are evident as well as the melodic galant. While not quite on the level of similar period Haydn, Herschel presents a distinctive voice and unique musical finger prints of his own. Significantly, when Joseph Haydn first visited England in 1791 he is reported to have immediately asked if he could visit William Herschel. This is music worth listening to."