BEETHOVEN National Airs for flute and piano Op.105 and Op.107 (selection) (c.15’)
FARRENC Sextet in C minor Op.40 (23’)
DANZI Wind Quintet in B flat Op.56 No.1 (14’)
BEETHOVEN Quintet for piano and wind in E flat Op.16 (25’)
A joyful showcase of Beethoven and more from the wind players of Ensemble 360. Beethoven’s Quintet for piano and wind is one of the great pieces in the wind repertoire, hugely enjoyable to both listen to and play. Writer of numerous wind quintets, Danzi’s knowledge of the instruments shines through in his melodic writing.
Inspired by Beethoven’s Quintet, Louise Farrenc’s Sextet adds the flute and is set in the style of a chamber concerto for piano and wind. A brilliant 19th century composer, she is now starting to achieve the recognition her outstanding music deserves.
BEETHOVEN Ludwig van, National Airs for flute and piano Op.105 & Op.107
The Scottish publisher and folksong collector George Thomson (1751–1851) – a friend of Robert Burns and Walter Scott – first approached Beethoven for some arrangements of Scottish songs as early as 1803, and eventually 25 of them (Beethoven’s Op. 108, for which the composer was well remunerated) were published by Thomson in 1818. Two years earlier, Thomson had written asking for some instrumental variations ‘in an agreeable style, not too difficult’. When he formally commissioned them in June 1818, Thomson also requested ad lib. flute parts, explaining that ‘we have a large number of flautists but alas, our violinists are few’, reminding Beethoven that the music should be ‘in a familiar, easy and slightly brilliant style.’
Thomson received the variations from Beethoven on 28 December 1818, and the National Airs with variations for the piano-forte and an accompaniment for the flute were published in July 1819, in a handsome edition that included a portrait of Beethoven on the title page. As musicologist and museum archivist Pamela Willetts has observed, they were not a commercial success. In 1820, Thomson wrote to Beethoven, grumbling that ‘the variations were not selling and that his outlay was a complete loss.’
© Nigel Simeone
FARRENC Louise, Sextet in C minor Op.40
The composer of three symphonies and an impressive body of chamber music as well as an extensive catalogue of works for piano (her own instrument), Louise Farrenc has thankfully been rediscovered after a century of neglect. Born Jeanne-Louise Dumont, she came from an artistic family and was encouraged to develop her gifts as a pianist and composer. She studied the piano with Moscheles and Hummel, and her composition teacher was Anton Reicha. In 1821 she married the flautist Aristide Farrenc who subsequently established a publishing business. After a successful career as a travelling virtuoso, Louise Farrenc was appointed professor of piano at the Paris Conservatoire in 1842, a post she held for thirty years. The Sextet for piano and wind quintet was written in 1851–2, immediately after the successful premiere of her Nonet for strings and wind (in which Joseph Joachim was one of the performers).
The first movement – the longest of the three – opens with a dramatic theme, decorated by elaborate piano writing, while the second theme is more lyrical. Broadly-conceived, this movement ends in grand style. The main theme of the slow movement is introduced by the wind alone before the being taken up by the piano, then by the whole ensemble with several short wind solos. The finale begins with an urgent and uneasy theme on the piano which gives way to a delicate second idea. But dramatic intensity is maintained throughout the movement, right up to the turbulent ending.
© Nigel Simeone
DANZI Franz, Wind Quintet in B flat Op.56 No.1
Andante con moto
Danzi was brought up in Mannheim, where he joined the orchestra run by the Elector Karl Theodor while still a teenager, as a cellist. His father was principal cellist in the orchestra (which moved, with Karl Theodor, to Munich) and he was praised by Mozart for his playing in the first performance of Idomeneo in 1781. In 1784, he was succeeded by his son, who later became an assistant Kapellmeister in Munich, before taking on the role of Kapellmeister in Stuttgart and later Karlsruhe. Though Danzi was a fine cellist, his fame as a composer rests largely on his nine woodwind quintets – works which show a consistent understanding of idiomatic wind writing.
The Quintet in B flat was one of a set of three first published in 1821, with a dedication to Anton Reicha – Danzi’s most important predecessor as a composer of wind quintets. After an amiable and well-crafted first movement in B flat major, Danzi reveals a more pensive side to his nature in the short Andante con moto, in D minor, its main thematic material being heard first on the oboe, then the bassoon. The Minuet is sturdy, while in the Trio section Danzi creates a witty dialogue between all five instruments. The last movement is a jaunty rondo.
© Nigel Simeone
BEETHOVEN Ludwig van, Quintet for wind and piano in E flat Op.16
Grave. Allegro ma non troppo
Rondo. Allegro ma non troppo
Beethoven completed his Quintet for Piano and Wind in 1797, five years after his arrival in Vienna, taking Mozart’s quintet for the same instrumental combination as his model. It’s probably no coincidence that one of Beethoven’s closest friends – Nikolaus Zmeskall von Domanovecz – owned the autograph manuscript of Mozart’s work at the time. Yet despite some obvious parallels in terms of structure and even some of the thematic material, the Beethoven Quintet sounds very individual. As the Canadian musicologist Cliff Eisen has written: ‘Beethoven [remained] true to his own voice, some obvious modellings of his quintet on Mozart’s notwithstanding: their keys and unusual scoring are identical, and both begin with elaborate slow introductions. At 416 bars, however, the first movement of Beethoven’s quintet far exceeds Mozart’s in scale: as in so many of his chamber and solo works, Beethoven aspires to the symphonic, something that is alien to Mozart’s greater intimacy and concision.’
© Nigel Simeone