disc is subtitled, 'String Quintets in the Paris of the
Grand Opera' and it is time and place that link the composers
whose works are featured. Chamber music was not as widely performed
outside as inside the home, and opera was the main form of
secular musical performance at that time in Paris. It was however
an international musical centre and the influences of a number
of traditions and styles can be heard here.
two quintets recorded here are separated by thirteen years.
However, he composed a total of 34 string quartets (cpo 999060-2;
cpo 999329-2 and cpo 999793-2 - see review - give some of them)
and 36 string quintets. Favourable personal circumstances allowed
concentrate on chamber music, which is arguably his most successful
musical form and symphonies (cpo 999747-2 - see review -
and cpo 999738-2) from 1831 to 1847, after which he returned
music. He produced an opera as late as 1824.
Op. 19 quintet is influenced mainly by the style of Boccherini
and uses what was known as the 'Paris string quintet', i.e.
one with two cellos - as do all the works on this disc - as
opposed to the 'Vienna string quintet' i.e. one with two violas
- as used by Mozart in his quintets. There is more than a hint
of the 'quatuor brilliant' style - a mini-concerto for the
first violin, with the other instruments playing an accompanying
role. The first violin often opens the themes, although this
is sometimes done by the first cello, showing a first step
away from this compositional approach, which had been widespread
in France. The fast-paced final movement is more opera-like
in its style, but with a surprise ending. The Op. 21 Quintet
distributes weight more evenly between the instrumental voices,
particularly towards the cello, showing a further move away
from the 'quatuor brilliant' style, and generally evidencing
a more mature and developed style.
is better known for his pupils, notably Beethoven, Berlioz
and Rossini, than his own music. In his time, he was active
in opera and in sacred music, the two main forms of public
performance in his time in Paris, where he was based for much
of his life. However music for small ensembles was in demand
for playing at home and he also wrote chamber music, such as
this string quintet, mainly later in his life. It is thus a
mature work, as are the later four of his string quartets,
which this follows shortly.
quintet is thus a work of some interest and merit - the mature
work of an influential music teacher, in a form which gave
more scope for private expression as opposed to the constraints
of public performance and audience taste. Cherubini shares
with Mozart, Brahms, Schubert and Mendelssohn, as well as with
Onslow - the composer of the other pieces on this disc - the
writing of a string quintet as the last substantial item of
their chamber music output.
fact Cherubini's chamber music has outlived much of his other
work, as his operas are now extremely rarely heard now, even
in concert version, and his church music only occasionally.
The string quartets, though, have been performed by the Bingham
Quartet as part of a concert series of lesser-known string
chamber works - which also featured the quartets of Zemlinsky
and of Elizabeth Maconchy - at London's South Bank. They have
also been recorded on Deutsche Grammophon by the Melos Quartett
(DG 429 185-2).
chamber works have a unique style, belonging neither to the
Vienna tradition, begun by Mozart, nor to the style of French
opera of the time, characterised by the work of Onslow or Boccherini,
cut down to size. Instead it has some elements of both, together
with a strong influence from Haydn.
Quintet, although ostensibly in conventional four-movement
structure, is more complex than that would suggest as two of
the four movements have themselves two distinct sections. It
is a lean, muscular work with no wasted material.
playing and recording are both good. The Diogenes Quartet were
set up ten years ago in Munich, which is where they most often
perform and have set up a concert series. They have recorded
works by Mozart, Haydn, Brahms, Dohnanyi and Engelbert Humperdinck
in addition to this disc. Manuel van der Nahmer, the first
cello, is also based in Munich, where he is a member of the
Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.
the recordings are world premieres, so this disc is an addition
to the available repertoire - which may be of interest in itself
- and of course no comparisons can be made in such circumstances!
The programme notes are helpful but their translation from
the Belgian author's original text is a little stilted.
is a good and worthwhile disc but perhaps one that appeals
mainly to those with specialised interests – lesser-known chamber
repertoire; French music of the first half of the 19th century;
the writings of either of these composers. It may well interest
those who have enjoyed the Deutsche Grammophon set of the Cherubini
(USA sales only)