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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

Johann Evangelist BRANDL (1760-1837)
Quintets Vol. 2
Quintet in F major Op.13 (63) for violin, viola, bassoon, cello and piano (1798) [21:03]
Quintet in c major Op.61 for violin, viola, bassoon, cello and piano (1800) [25:27]
Quintet in F major Op.62 for violin, viola, bassoon, cello and piano (circa. 1800) [21:55]
Calamus Ensemble: Rainer Schottstadt (bassoon); Sigrid Althoff (piano); Torsten Janicke (violin); Mile Kosi (viola); Joachim Griesheimer (cello)
Recorded at Furstliche Reitbahn Bad Arolsen, Germany, 28-30 October 2002 - DDD


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You have to give due credit to Dabringhaus und Grimm for delving into the forgotten composersí archive. This second volume of works from composer Johann Brandl has been unearthed and deserves to be heard by a wide audience. Until these recordings became available it is probable and rather amazing that these works were never previously heard by an audience other than Brandlís immediate employer and friends.

Brandl was born in Bavaria in 1760 and it is said that his most important works were composed from the late 1700s to around 1840. It was in this period that chamber music as we know it today with one instrument per part became established.

Brandl received his first musical instruction at a Monastery and then a catholic Seminary but was largely self-taught. It was whilst in the employment of the Prince-Bishop of Speyer in Bruchsal that Brandl found sufficient time to study mainly Haydn quartets and symphonies and to compose in various genres. His tenure proved to be difficult, unrewarding and not at all prestigious. Nevertheless at the turn of the 17th century Brandl managed to compose a large number of works some of which extended his reputation beyond his immediate locality. Of those compositions, three quintets for the combination of violin, viola, bassoon, cello and piano are contained on this MDG release. In fact, MDG have already released a previous volume of Brandl quintets: Op.14 and Op. 52 Nos. 1 and 2 on MDG 60311332, which although they seemed to pass most critics by, are said to be well regarded.

The composerís catalogue of works is incomplete with many scores thought to be lost or destroyed. The Opus numbers are somewhat confusing as those allocated to works bear little reference to their composition dates.

It is not known why Brandl wrote so many scores that featured the bassoon. It is possible that he wrote them specifically for Jacques Hartmann a wealthy client who was an enthusiastic amateur bassoonist.

None of the original manuscripts for these three quintets exist and the copies consist of separate parts for each individual instrument. All the quintets here are piano quintets in all but name, owing to the predominance of the piano writing, with the bassoon or the violin occasionally taking over. In fact, at times I was reminded of a piano concerto with string quartet accompaniment. In the comprehensive booklet notes we are told that in accordance with Style Galante the viola and cello simply take the middle parts. Furthermore an interesting feature is how the bassoon parts have been written to occasionally supplement the string writing, as if it were a cello and a second viola.

It is not surprising that there is a tremendous influence of Haydn in these works and I certainly detect a flavour of Mozart; whose music Brandl would have undoubtedly come across. The first quintet on the release is in F major Op.13 (63) and is composed in the Allegro, Andante, Allegro movement form. The quintet has a dreamy texture in parts and is immediately attractive and satisfying. The two remaining quintets in C major Op.61 in three movements and the four movement F major Op. 62 are noticeably more intricate and intense in style whilst still having the qualities of being appealing and rewarding.

The Calamus Ensemble are master musicians and provide exceptionally fine and thoughtful playing throughout. I had not come across the players previously and was most impressed. They are able to expertly blend the necessary lyricism, playfulness and charm with seriousness and imagination. The playing of pianist Sigrid Althoff is particularly convincing in what is an extremely fine recital. The recording offers clear separation of each instrument and has striking presence.

Melodic, appealing and rewarding Classical style piano quintets that are predominantly Haydn influenced; with a hint of Mozart. Exceptional performances from the Calamus Ensemble and well recorded too. A most recommendable release.

Michael Cookson

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