The dates of Friedrich Ernst Fesca (1789-1826) make him a near contemporary - by birth AND untimely death - of Weber (1786-1826). To give a perspective, within a few years of Fesca were also born: Paganini (1782), Ries (1784), Onslow (1784), Spohr (1784), Kuhlau (1786), Berwald (1786), Vorisek (1791), Meyerbeer (1791) and Schubert (1797). All the other composers we now associate with romantic music - Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt and so forth - were born in the 19th Century. And as a reminder: Beethoven, whose intimidating shadow ever hovered above all this generation, was from 1770 (and he survived Fesca by a year). Also, don't confuse Fesca and Fesca, as I first did. I thought I had already heard music of Fesca, in the guise of his Piano Septet, which enjoyed a few recordings in the LP era, but in fact Friedrich Ernst had a son, Alexander Ernst, who was also a composer and also died young (1820-1849), and the Septet was Alexander's: more precisely, the first, op...
I got this CD for free, along with a CPO disc of Kalliwoda's symphonies that have got excellent reviews elsewhere. I confess that I was much more impressed by Fesca, in fact, much more than than any of the other composers justly championed by CPO, except for Marschner (whose piano trios are wonderful - try them by all means) and Goetz (whose orchestral and vocal works are just wonderful). Music criticism still clings to the notion of originality as the most important hallmark of great art, and by this criterion Fesca's symphonies are, perhaps, no better than that of talented second-rung symphonists like Spohr, Arriaga and Vorisek. However, as far as the quality of invention is concerned, Fesca's symphonies brings to mind those by more famous names: Weber's First, Schubert's Fifth, Gounod's two symphonies and Bizet's teenage one in C-major. Fesca's first movements are well-argued and never too long, the second movements combine depth of feeling with a genuine melodic gift, the scherzos...
Another of those gifted symphonists who just happened to work in the shadow of Beethoven, Friedrich Fesca is obviously one of the more successful and can be added to the short list that includes Jan Vorisek and Louis Spohr. But whereas Spohr started at the top and dug his way to the bottom in the course of his checkered symphonic career, there is clear evidence of progression in the two Fesca symphonies contained on this excellent CD from CPO. For example, No. 2 announces its Beethovenian pedigree immediately with a direct quotation from the Beethoven Symphony No. 2. The same exact cadence (is it even the same exact orchestration?) begins Fesca's symphony. Later, though, Fesca shows that by around 1810 (when his symphony was written) he had absorbed other influences, including ones from Beethoven's later symphonies. After all, Ludwig was up to around No. 7 by that time. However, it is Fesca's Symphony No. 3 that hints at greater possibilities still. This symphony begins with a...
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