Paul Wranitzky



Pavel Vranický was born in the small Moravian town of Nová Říše on 30 December 1756 (the same year as Mozart), the second son of land-owning innkeepers who also operated a postal service. He studied singing, organ, violin and viola at the Premonstratensian monastery grammar school in Nová Říše and, later (1770–71), in Jihlava (where Mahler was to spend his boyhood nearly a century later), twenty miles north of Nová Říše and fifty north-west of Brno; he subsequently studied theology in Olomouc, fifty miles north-east of Brno. Like many of their Czech contemporaries, both he and his younger brother Antonín (1761–1820), who was also trained as a musician, gravitated to Vienna, germanising their names to Paul and Anton Wranitzky. Pavel arrived in that city in about 1776 and entered the theological seminary where he also served as choirmaster. He continued his musical studies with Joseph Martin Kraus, Kapellmeister to the Swedish court in Stockholm, who visited Vienna in 1783.

Early in 1784 he was appointed music director for Count Johann Baptist Esterházy, and in October 1785 he became director of the newly formed orchestra of the Kärntnerthortheater in Vienna, moving down the road to the Burgtheater two years later. He maintained his association with the orchestras of both these institutions until his death on 26 September 1808, when he was succeeded by his brother Anton. He was a friend of Mozart’s, whose last German opera, Die Zauberflöte (1791), was at least partially influenced by Wranitzky’s first opera, Oberon, König der Elfen (1789). The two composers belonged to the same Masonic Lodge, ‘Zur gekrönten Hoffnung’; and after Mozart’s death in 1791 Wranitzky helped his widow, Constanze, with negotiations for publishing his music. Though there is no evidence that Wranitzky had ever studied under Haydn, he was certainly on friendly terms with that illustrious colleague, who insisted that he should direct the performances in 1799 and 1800 of Die Schöpfung; and Beethoven asked him to conduct the first performance of his First Symphony in 1800. His own compositions comprise over twenty stage works, including ten operas; fifty-one symphonies (listed, with incipits, details of movements and scoring, and of publication and manuscript sources, in Milan Poštolka’s invaluable but elusive twenty-eight-page Thematic Catalogue published in Prague in 1967); at least fifty-six string quartets; and a large amount of other orchestral and chamber music.

Symphony in D major, Op. 36

1. Adagio – Allegro molto
2. Russe. Allegretto – Minore – Maggiore
3. Polonese – Trio
4. Finale: Largo – Rondo. Allegro

The Symphony in D major was published in Offenbach am Main by André in about 1799 as Op. 36, with a dedication to, among others, Archduke Joseph, Palatine of Hungary, and is scored for strings and pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets and timpani. Its first movement is prefaced by an introductory Adagio whose grand, stately opening and conclusion are set off by a tender episode for the strings. The main theme of the sonata-form Allegro molto, beginning quietly on the strings and continuing in a festive tutti, is pure opera buffa; there is a dramatic and colourful development section and a recapitulation crowned by a jubilant coda. The second movement, in A major and entitled Russe, is in ternary form and based on a gavotte-like theme; the stern middle section is in A minor and the varied reprise of the A major section is followed by a short coda, played here in slightly faster tempo. The third movement is a racy and exuberant Polonese in D; it frames a slower and gentler Trio in G with prominent flute and cello, and with strings playing sul ponticello. Like the first movement, the Finale begins with a solemn slow introduction, but scored only for double woodwinds and horns. It prepares the way for a jolly (and later dramatic) Rondo in 6/8, notable, once more, for its perceptive scoring, contrasting and combining strings and winds.

Symphony in C minor, Op. 11

1. Grave – Allegro assai
2. Adagio
3. Menuetto. Allegretto – Trio
4. Presto

The Symphony in C minor was published by André in 1791 as Op. 11, and by Imbault in Paris in 1792, and is scored for strings, flute and pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets and timpani. It begins with a short but impressive Grave which leads into a fine, turbulent Allegro assai in concise sonata form, with a modulating development section. The second movement is a predominantly gentle, even chamber-musical, sonata-form Adagio in E flat major and 2/4 time, without clarinets and timpani. The third movement is a Menuetto in C minor in the usual two repeated sections: the first rather severe in character, the second more playful and waltz-like; the dancing Trio is in the relative major key, E flat, and brings the wind instruments into prominence. The finale, in C major and, like the first movement, in economical, monothematic sonata form, is festive in character and again brings the wind instruments to the fore; there is an adventurous, widely modulating development. If Mozart had written a symphony in C minor, this could surely be it!

Grand Characteristic Symphony for the Peace with the French Republic in C major, Op. 31

1. The Revolution. Andante maestoso – Allegro molto –
English March –
March of the Austrians and Prussians: Tempo di marcia. Maestoso – Più allegro, tempo primo
2. The Fate and the Death of Louis. Adagio affettuoso, con sordini –
Funeral March – [ ]
3. English March: Tempo di marcia. Movibile –
March of the Allies –
The Tumult of a Battle. Allegro
4. The Prospects of Peace. Andante grazioso –
Rejoicing at the Achievement of Peace. Allegro vivace

The Grand Characteristic Symphony for the Peace with the French Republic was published in Augsburg by Gombert in 1797 as Op. 31, together with arrangements for piano trio and for string quintet. It is the most remarkable of the three symphonies recorded here, not only because of its programmatic subject but also because it is so brilliantly scored for string orchestra, rather than the full classical orchestra for which Wranitzky wrote with such mastery. The work, a musical portrait of the French Revolution (1789–94) and war with Austria, is in four ‘movements’, each subdivided into shorter, contrasting sections. The first movement begins with ‘The Revolution’, an Andante maestoso in a solemn C minor leading to a fierce, syncopated Allegro molto with a gentle subsidiary theme in E flat major; this is followed by a brief and remarkably gentle ‘English March’ in C major, after which the music of ‘The Revolution’ returns; the third section begins with a pompous ‘March of the Austrians and Prussians’ in E flat major and ends with another return to C minor and the music of ‘The Revolution’. The second movement begins with ‘The Fate and the Death of Louis’, marked Adagio affettuoso, con sordini and in E flat major, a tender, chamber-musical tribute to Louis XVI, who had married Maria Antonia (Marie Antoinette), daughter of Empress Maria Theresia, in 1770, and who, together with his Queen, was guillotined on 21 January 1793. This section is followed by a dramatic passage which in turn leads to a ‘Funeral March’ in C minor, concluding with two vivid crashes of the guillotine; the movement ends with a return to the eloquent tribute to the French King. The third movement begins with the ‘English March’ heard earlier, here greatly enlivened; it is followed by a grandiloquent ‘March of the Allies’, also in C major, and the remainder of the movement is devoted to a vivid depiction of ‘The Tumult of a Battle’, an Allegro in the same key. The fourth movement begins with a portrayal of ‘The Prospects of Peace’, Andante grazioso, and ends with an exuberant and extended musical account of ‘Rejoicing at the Achievement of Peace’, Allegro vivace, in C major. A projected performance of the symphony in Vienna was proscribed by an Imperial resolution, dated 20 December 1797, which objected to the provocative nature of the work’s title.

Robin Golding (2002)