Fine performances of modestly appealing music
G.D. | Norway | 01/17/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Richard Hol (1825-1904) was, apparently, a relatively important figure in his day, receiving acclaim as a composer, educator, pianist and conductor. Yet the record companies seem to have overlooked his music more or less completely until now - and it is not really hard to figure out why; there must be tons of similar, relatively well-crafted, modestly attractive music out there of equal stature to the two symphonies featured here. I don't think anyone who acquires this disc with a reasonable idea about what to expect will be disappointed, but this is far from a mandatory acquisition (although I suppose we should be grateful to Chandos for giving us the chance to hear and judge this music for ourselves).
The music is obviously inspired by the German tradition, Schubert and Weber and with touches of Schumann. Weber is certainly the guiding spirit behind the first symphony, with its tuneful, relatively lighthearted first movement and its sunny, flowery slow movement. But the melodies aren't particularly memorable, and it seems even structurally uncertain. The scherzo has at least touches of dark ferocity, but cannot entirely avoid flat-footedness. The finale is altogether the most convincing movement; again not particularly memorable, but at least rounding things up effectively.
The third symphony is more convincing overall, and the music is slightly more individual; gone are the Weber influences, and it is inspired more my contemporary romantic composers - some Brahms, Bruch and Reinecke and even, perhaps, a touch of Tchaikovsky. But any strongly individual voice cannot be discerned here either. The first movement is, however, effective and cogently argued, and the scherzo is lively and rather catchy. There is some effective instrumental effects in the rather charming, pastoral slow movement and the finale is breezy and attractive. Still, there is nothing really distinguished about either work, although they receive generally very convincing performances from the Residentie Orchestra of Haag under Matthias Bamert - although they could, I imagine, have excercised a little more snap and sparkle in some of the faster, more ebullient parts. The sound quality is good, and overall this is very much a worthwhile release, but not one to go out of your way for."