Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7

Johann Wilhelm Wilms

Who was Johann Wilhelm Wilms and why are we only now - thanks to another pioneering effort by Werner Ehrhardt and Concerto Köln - making this remarkable composer's acquaintance? 

He was born around the same time and same place as Beethoven. Both quickly outgrew their home turf and fled to one of Europe's musical capitals. Beethoven went to Vienna in 1792 and, as everyone knows, rapidly became the most famous musical figure of his time and the 19th century's most influential composer. 

And Wilms? He went to Amsterdam in 1791, taught piano, played flute in orchestras and, as pianist, introduced the Dutch to Mozart and Beethoven's concertos. But though he became a key player in the Netherlands' musical life and even wrote the semi-official Dutch national anthem, he struggled to make his name as a composer. After his death in 1847, his music languished in obscurity.

Not long ago, while poring over manuscripts by unknown composers, Werner Ehrhardt came across a symphony by Wilms. He was immediately taken with its accessible melodies. More recently still, in the midst of researching another Beethoven contemporary, Ehrhardt was contacted by the musicologist Ernst Klusen, who re-awakened his interest in Wilms. As he got to know more of the music, Ehrhardt was struck by the great stylistic development throughout the composer's career. 

For this CD Ehrhardt has chosen his last two symphonies. The Sixth, which reflects the turbulent, difficult time of his life in which Wilms wrote it, won a prize and was published in 1823. The even more extraordinary Seventh, whose musical gestures clearly reflect the mark left on Wilms by the French Revolution, looks both backward to the Classical era just past and ahead to the Romantic one just beginning. 

After a partial performance in 1836, the score of the Seventh Symphony mysteriously disappeared and the work sank into oblivion. Nearly 170 years later it was rediscovered and finally published. Ehrhardt and Concerto Köln gave the work its first complete performance in 2002. And in this, Concerto Köln's second Archiv release, both symphonies receive their world première recording.

Johann Wilhelm Wilms (1772-1847)
Symphonie Nr. 6 in d-Moll, Op. 58
Symphony Nr. 7 in c-Moll

„… ein ernst zu nehmender Symphoniker, in dessen Werk sich der stilistische Wandel von der Wiener Klassik zur Frühromantik auf eine durchaus originelle und erfrischende Weise niederschlägt. Erstmals ehren nun die unermüdlichen Klassik-Archäologen (oder sollte man besser sagen "Reanimateure") von Concerto Köln das vergessene Multitalent Wilms… diskographisch: mit seinen beiden letzten Symphonien in d-Moll (1820) und c-Moll (nach 1830), die beide auf eine sehr eindringliche Weise das unruhige Kulturklima der nachnapoleonischen Zeit verarbeiten… wie die „Klassik-Rocker“ vom Rhein ihn hier anpacken, unter Hochspannung setzen, mit attackierender Frische den Herzenspuls wiederbeleben und die innere Dramatik entfachen – das macht aus Wilms nachgerade fast schon einen kleinen musikalischen Revolutionär: Das nenne ich konspiratives Musizieren auf höchstem Niveau – unbestechlich und unwiderstehlich.