Reicha Orchestral Works
Anton Reicha – or, if you prefer, Antonin Rejcha – is a good example of a composer who deserves better recognition but is unlikely to get it except through the enthusiasm of ensembles who can explore his work on records more easily than in concert. Here are three pieces written around 1800, when at the age of 30 he was making a name in Germany and hoping to take Paris by storm. The Sinfonia concertante is no worse and a good deal better than many such works written so as to accommodate sometimes weird combinations of travelling virtuosos, with some charmingly written and skilfully developed ideas that make inventive use of the two solo instruments and their timbre. Matters are rather more substantial with the Symphony. Reicha is no Haydn, though he has taken note of that master’s ingenuity with the unexpected that turns out to be just right. But this is a most agreeable piece, very easy on the ear.
The D major Overture is another matter, and goes some way towards justifying the description ‘bizarre’ which some of Reicha’s puzzled contemporaries bestowed upon him. He was an inveterate experimenter, sometimes drily but in this case most amusingly with a piece written entirely – and very unusually for the day – in quintuple time. It is all handled with liveliness and real wit, as the accents dance nimbly between the twos and threes across the instruments. I cannot help feeling that the fun would be twice as much if the piece lasted half as long (ten minutes), but it is an original, clever and enjoyable work, and, as Irmlind Capelle writes in her excellent essay on Reicha, it looks forward far beyond its time, not only in the orchestral virtuosity it demands and here abundantly receives.'