Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel Quartet in E flat;
Emilie Mayer Quartet in G minor Op 14;
Laura Lombardini Sirmen Quartet No 2 in B flat, Quartet No 3 in
Erato Quartet Basel
CPO 999 679 - 2 [DDD]
Firstly let me praise the excellent CD booklet which teems with information.
Fanny Mendelssohn was, of course, Felix's sister. In 1829 she married the
painter Wilhelm Hensel. Her String Quartet is her only work in this
genre and while it is clear that it is strongly influenced by her famous
brother it is a lovely piece. The opening adagio ma mon troppo is
both beautiful and serene. The second movement is marked allegretto
but is quick, fast and very attractive. It is a scherzo inspired by
the Bell Rondo from Paganini's Violin Concerto No 2. The
Romanze that follows has a beguiling simplicity; it is somewhat repetitive
but is a very warm piece. The finale has some compositional weaknesses, which
reveals the composer's lack of maturity, but it is very pleasant.
Emilie Mayer was a German composer born in 1812. She studied with Carl Loewe
and thereafter with Adolf Bernhard Marx. Her String Quartet in G minor
Op 14 is a substantial work in four movements lasting half an hour. The
well constructed opening movement is an allegro appassionato in sonata
form. There is much dialogue work and some memorable themes. The
scherzo is also leisurely and not therefore a contrast. At three minutes
it is very short. The adagio molto contabile is very beautiful and
based on a chorale suggesting that this quartet was written for a
special occasion. The music has character but, sadly, it has predictable
clichés as well. The finale is attractive but there is no drama,
fire or telling contrast throughout the thirty minute work. While it has
no low points, it has no high ones either.
Maddeline Laura Lombardine Sirmen was born in Vienna in 1745 and was a fine
violinist and a pupil of Tartini. After the birth of her daughter she became
an opera singer.
The two quartets are both two movement works. They are pleasant listening
but not outstanding or memorable. Historically they are of interest and
musicologists could have a field day determining the 'style' employed.
A pleasant CD and I am glad to review music by women composers and further
dent Sir Thomas Beecham's inane comment, "There aren't any women composers
nor will there be."