Paul Wranitzky: Orchestral Works 6. © 2023 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd

CD Spotlight

A Moravian in Vienna

KEITH BRAMICH listens to Wranitzky sinfonias

'... sprightly and intelligently played readings ...'


This month, Naxos Records released the latest in its Czech Masters in Vienna series. This is the sixth volume of orchestral music by Mozart contemporary Paul Wranitzky (1756-1808).

This latest album, Paul Wranitzky: Orchestral Works 6, features sinfonias which were originally written as incidental music to plays. These sinfonias consist primarily of overtures, but also feature a funeral march and two other marches. All three stage works here were first performed during the period 1795-97 at Vienna's Burgtheater, where Wranitzky was orchestra director.

Wranitzky often re-used his music for later projects, and some movements of these sinfonias have been omitted from this disc, either because they feature on previous recordings in a different guise, or because they are planned to appear as part of complete works on future recordings.

Wranitzky's dramatic music to Die Spanier in Peru, oder Rollas Tod (Spaniards in Peru, or Rolla's Death) was written in 1795. The tragedy, written by German playwright August von Kotzebue (1761-1819), is the second part of the story of the sixteenth century conquest by the Spanish of the Incas. The Act I, II and IV overtures plus a march from Act III are featured here in sprightly and intelligently played readings by the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice conducted by Marek Štilec.

Listen — Wranitzky: Act IV: Ouverture (Die Spanier in Peru, oder Rollas Tod)
(8.574454 track 4, 0:00-0:55) ℗ 2023 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

Jolantha, Königin von Jerusalem (Yolanda, Queen of Jerusalem) is also a tragedy, this time a fictional story, although inspired by real twelfth century characters, written by another German writer, Friedrich Wilhelm Ziegler (1761-1827). Wranitzky's music dates from 1797, and features a rather beautiful funeral march.

Listen — Wranitzky: Trauer Marsch (Jolantha, Königin von Jerusalem)
(8.574454 track 7, 0:00-0:43) ℗ 2023 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

The final work, the five Act drama Achmet und Zenide, depicts a Turkish love triangle. The play is by yet another German, the actor and author August Wilhelm Iffland (1759-1814). Wranitzky's music picks up the Turkish theme by adding percussion instruments.

Listen — Wranitzky: Act III: Ouverture (Achmet und Zenide)
(8.574454 track 12, 3:20-4:09) ℗ 2023 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

Born in Moravia, Wranitzky moved to Vienna to further his career, became friends with Haydn and Mozart, and was highly successful there for the rest of his life, working as a composer, conductor and violinist.

Daniel Bernhardsson's booklet notes contain a wealth of fascinating detail, describing, for example, the merger of three Masonic lodges in 1785, bringing Mozart and Wranitzky together as Masonic brothers, and informing us that Wranitzky was first orchestra director for both of Vienna's court theatres for nearly two decades at the end of his life, which presumably made it easy for him to programme his own music.

After Paul Wranitzky's death, his music appears to have been quickly forgotten, which seems rather odd since his younger half-brother Anton Wranitzky (1761-1820) inherited Paul's theatre jobs and lived for another twelve years, so would presumably have been able to continue to programme Paul's music. Later in the nineteenth century, Belgian critic François-Joseph Fétis (1784-1871), who considered Paul Wranitzky's symphonies to stand up well to those of Haydn, was astonished that Paul's works had been abandoned so quickly. Could there have been some rivalry between the two half-brothers, who were both composers? Maybe it was because Beethoven was still alive and working in Vienna, or there could have been rather more commercial forces at play. Perhaps a Wranitzky scholar can enlighten us?

Wranitzky's story has a happy ending, however. His music became fashionable again early in the 21st century, largely through the efforts of the international team working at The Wranitzky Project, which produces editions of the composer's fascinating music and makes them freely available to all. Hopefully the partnership with Naxos and the Pardubice orchestra is helping to gradually build a more realistic picture of late eighteenth century Viennese musical life.

Copyright © 30 July 2023 Keith Bramich,
London, UK



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