REGISTER NOW AND GET
• 5 FREE tracks! • 101 tracks for $9.99
ClassicsOnline Home » BOMTEMPO: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2
Wonderful, wonderful music!
This CD is a wonderful surprise, a real discovery! Bomtempo is an unknown composer, and this disc contains two of his symphonies, one compact (24 minutes) written about 1810, and the second written about 1820, much more extended and developed in form, harmony, and orchestration, lasting 42 minutes. While he is sometimes called the “Portuguese Beethoven”, stylistically his writing is much closer to Schubert in harmony and melody (although it’s very doubtful he ever heard a Schubert symphony). His orchestration owes much to Muzio Clementi, with whom he became associated during his time in London, and who became his publisher. Very noteworthy is Bomtempo’s use of trombones in the second symphony, something unusual in symphonic writing at this time, but Clementi had used trombones in all his last four symphonies, also written at the same time as Bomtempo’s No. 2. The liner notes suggest the influence of Beethoven’s sixth symphony (the first time he used trombones in a symphony) but the influence of Clementi is much more pronounced.
But the music – oh, what music! Bomtempo’s music is heavily based on Portuguese folk dance rhythms -- he must have been a very good dancer! Especially in the second symphony, dance rhythms predominate, and the last movement is based on what seems to be the Portuguese dance folklore, with a one-two-three, one-two-three, turn, turn rhythm over and over. I’m no expert in Portuguese dances, but a friend was born there, and his description of this dance matches the music perfectly. The Algarve Orchestra, based in Southern Portugal, relishes this music, and plays it perfectly – you can sense that they are dancing in their places even as they play! Even though they are a newly-founded orchestra, their playing is absolutely first-rate, and is one of the special features of this recording.
Unfortunately, Naxos has fallen down on the recorded sound here. Over the last ten years or so the Naxos sound has usually been absolutely first-rate. One example of the Naxos high-quality recorded sound is their CD of Tyberg’s Symphony No. 3 – the sound is perfectly live and present. But here in the Bomtempo recording the sound has a “bottom of the barrel” quality, with very little openness or dynamic range. I think I even detect a bit of electronic reverb. It’s a disservice to this music, and to the orchestra. Such wonderful music deserves a first-class recording.
But the music itself shines through, and after the first five minutes the ears adjust to the cramped sound. Even with this disadvantage the CD gets a high recommendation, on the merits of the music and performance alone. Get on your dancing shoes, and come dance with me!more....
João Domingos Bomtempo was born in Lisbon in 1771,
the son of an Italian oboist, member of the orchestra of
the Royal Court of Lisbon. He studied music in Lisbon’s
Patriarchal Seminary, and in 1795, after his father’s
death, he was appointed principal oboist of that
orchestra. Unlike most Portuguese composers of the
eighteenth century who went to Italy to pursue their
musical studies, Bomtempo established himself in Paris
in 1801. He was, certainly by nature as well as by
education, a cosmopolitan personality, as may also be
concluded by the fact that he was a free-mason.
In Paris, and later in London, Bomtempo developed
a brilliant career as a pianist and composer. A friend of
Muzio Clementi, he absorbed the new pianistic style of
this Italian composer, pedagogue and music publisher.
The success of his public concerts led to the publication
of his works by Leduc. After the first performance of his
first symphony in Paris in 1809, he established himself
in London. Clementi became his publisher, and his first
symphony was published as Opus 11, in a four-hands
In 1820 Bomtempo returned to Lisbon, where in
1822 he founded the Philharmonic Society, with which
he widely contributed toward the development of the
Portuguese musical establishment. In 1833, when the
Lisbon Conservatory of Music was founded, he was
appointed its Director. He also published various
pedagogical works, including a Method for the Piano
and Elements of Music.
Bomtempo composed music for different musical
ensembles. Among his works, the most important ones
are, in addition to many compositions for the piano, his
five concertos for piano and orchestra, his Requiem in
Memory of Camões and the two symphonies here
included, although early musicologists mention that he
composed a total of six symphonies.
Symphony No.1 shows the influence of Haydn and
Mozart. It follows the classical form despite the fact that
the second movement is a Menuet, and not the usual
Andante. The first movement has a slow introduction
and its Allegro section follows sonata form. The Menuet
has the usual contrasting Trio and the third movement
(Andante sostenuto) develops along the lines of a free
set of variations, with an emphasis on the use of the
wind instruments. The work is scored for two flutes, two
oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns and
timpani. The oldest existing copy of the full orchestral
score is in the handwriting of a copyist. Curiously, it has
no trumpets. Since the timpani part is independent of
that of the horns, and since the symphonies which
directly influenced Bomtempo do not use timpani
without trumpets, I have added two trumpets to the
timpani part. The score and parts of this symphony were
published in 1963 by the Calouste Gulbenkian
Foundation in Lisbon.
Symphony No. 2 is a work of much larger scope and
dimension. Its musical style is clearly more Romantic
than that of the first symphony and its form much
broader and more fluid. Of particular interest is the
lyricisim of the Allegro moderato, which follows the
slow introduction of the first movement. Its sheer size
reminds us of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. Equally
original is the second movement, whose rhythmic
character is interrupted by a theme which resembles
more an operatic aria than the middle section of an
orchestral slow movement. Also noteworthy is the ease
with which the Trio becomes part of the Menuet and the
freedom with which the Finale develops, always
following the sonata form but without apparent
submission to any pre-established musical form. The
orchestration of the Second Symphony is the same as that
of the first, with the addition of two trombones. Perhaps
this indicates that Bomtempo may have known
Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony at the time when he
composed this work.
Last Albums Viewed
BOMTEMPO: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2