Composers of note

People interested in classical music are well aware of household names such as Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. There is a good reason for that since they are both notable composers. If we were in any doubt of this, concert programmes would confirm it. Beethoven symphonies and concertos are a staple of concert programmes, and Tchaikovsky is always well represented. A glance at the recording catalogue would reinforce this view. Conductors are given to recording ‘Beethoven cycles’ in much the same way as pianists like to record complete sets of Beethoven sonatas. A search of the Fifth Symphony on Presto, a well-known classical music website, brings up 39 pages listing recordings of this work, and each of these pages lists several recordings. We could reasonably ask how many recordings of this work we really need.  Conductors also like to record ‘Mahler Cycles’ primarily, it seems, for the Japanese market.

Some other composers are reasonably well represented in concert programmes too, such as Haydn, Mozart and Rachmaninov, but what has always amazed me is the composers who are seldom or never to be found in live concerts but whose music is well crafted and enjoyable. You would think that if music is well written and a pleasure to hear, concert programmers would let us hear it. But in the main they don’t. Here are just two examples.

Franz Krommer (1759–1831)


Krommer is listed in Wikipedia under a Germanic form of his name. In fact he was born in what is now the Czech Republic and might better be known as František Kramář. For many years there was a great deal of confusion over this composer’s name, to the extent that when I was at school (many years ago) we believed there was a composer called Frantisek Krommer Krammer, a name we liked a lot.

Kramář’s output was considerable, including symphonies, concertos and seventy string quartets, though nowadays he is best known for his many works involving wind instruments. I know only a small percentage of his output, but greatly enjoy both of his concertos for two clarinets. Why do we never hear them in the concert hall? They are well written and inventive. Because two clarinet soloists would have to be paid? That can’t be the explanation, since the powers that be never schedule any of his solo concertos for clarinet either.

Bernhard Molique (1802-1869)


Molique wrote a flute concerto, a cello concerto and six concertos for violin that I know of. But he also wrote two concertos for Signor Regondi, an Italian gentleman who was a virtuoso player both of the guitar and the concertina. And of these two instruments it was not, as you might expect, the guitar that he wrote them for but the concertina.

This might seem an odd instrument to write a concerto for since the concertina is small and not well capable of standing out against an orchestra. But if you have heard a virtuouso concertina player in action, Simon Thoumire, for example, you would not be so surprised. The scores of both concertos exist but one remains unpublished.

If I win the lottery I will happily pay to have it published and for these concertos to be performed and recorded. But this is unlikely to happen. I don’t buy lottery tickets – so I am marginally less likely to win it than those who do.

Molique also wrote a sonata for concertina and piano. This has been recorded (alas, though sensitively, on the accordion). It is a delightful work with a sonata form first movement very fully worked out.

To illustrate the man at work, here is a movement from one of his concertos for concertina and orchestra (played on the accordion).

Where would we be without Youtube?


9 thoughts on “Composers of note

  1. I do sometimes wonder how many composers works are in drawers to gather dust and mites. The same for writers of words or those who take to colour and brush on canvas. It has to be the enjoyment in the doing otherwise there is a risk of a deep-seated gloom becoming dominant in everyday life.
    Right now I am listening to the pretty blond girl with strong European facial features playing the flute concerto by Bernhard Molique. A delightful happy piece of music. Till now, I had never heard of him.
    Thank you Rod.

    • I’m glad you like the music. Krommer and Molique were both professionals who made a living out of music, but it can happen that tastes change and that those who are not deemed ‘great composers’ languish somewhat after their deaths. There is a great deal of music which should be taken out of drawers, dusted down and made to live again.

      [I was amazed that you replied because I had no idea this post would reach you. I believed I had created a separate blog but it seems its connection to the existing one is helping it on.]

    • You haven’t flipped! I decided the sound quality wasn’t as good as it might be in the flute concerto extract so I replaced it with the concerto for concertina.

  2. Pingback: New Blog | Fragmented Mind

  3. Loved the Krommer and enjoyed the Molique, both new to me. I will follow a music blog, but personally prefer shorter posts, so this would have been great as two posts. I need an email follow button as I never get to my reader.

    • This is really useful, Hilary. A lot of draft posts I have in the pipeline are probably too long.
      I shall find ways to carve them up.

      Don’t you think the picture of Molique is a little like Schubert?

    • Thanks, Charlotte. I’ll be very interested in what you think. Hilary thinks the post was too long, and maybe I should deal with only one composer at a time. I think I agree.

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