- Symphony in E minor, Bryan e3
- Symphony in C major, Bryan C1
- Symphony in C major, Bryan C17
- Symphony in E flat major ("La Tempesta"), Bryan Eb1
Ominous storm clouds gather in the well-chosen image on the front cover of Naxos' Johann Baptist Vanhal: Symphonies, Vol. 4. Well chosen, as the music inside is suitably stormy and tempestuous; the concluding movement to the "Symphony in E flat, Bryan Eb1," is even subtitled "La Tempesta." Vanhal editor Paul Bryan, who contributed the notes to this volume, the second in this Naxos series to boast the talents of Kevin Mallon and the Toronto Chamber Orchestra, suggests that the four movements of this symphony correspond to the four seasons of the calendar year. This argument seems not far off the mark, and while the "Tempesta" movement appears to be fragmentary in its extant form, it certainly does suggest a "wintry mix." Vanhal is a very visually oriented composer whose music seldom seems "abstract" even in the eighteenth century sense; it is far too unpredictable and variable for that. Vanhal's tense and restless "Menuetto and Trio" from the "E minor Symphony" (Bryan e3) is one example where the composer is stirring the pot when a cooling off period would normally be required. It is hard to imagine how such music would gain popularity in the Imperial Court of Vienna, yet nevertheless it was a hit; according to Bryan, this symphony exists in no less than 18 manuscript copies. It's great to have Mallon, who has distinguished himself in so many of Naxos' recordings of music in the eighteenth century, leading the Toronto Chamber Orchestra in Vanhal, as he and his group have done so well by such Vanhal contemporaries as Ordoñez, Cimarosa, and Pichl and even some slightly better known figures such as Franz Joseph Haydn. The orchestra is full and nicely balanced, neither over-inflated nor scrawny in sound. The playing is both relaxed and vital. This is Volume 4, and as Vanhal is alleged to have written at least 77 symphonies -- the total number remains a mystery -- all parties, with any luck, will remain busy on this project for quite some time. There's no guarantee that all volumes will be as good as this one, but so far this is the best in Naxos' Vanhal series and serves as a terrific introduction to both his work and world.