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Joseph KREUTZER (1790-1840)
Trios Op.9: Nos. 1-4
Gragnani Trio: Thomas Richter (flute), Anna Tarnawska (violin) and Karin Scholz (guitar)
Recorded Bavarian Music Academy, December 2003
THOROFON CTH 2488 [60.00]


Joseph Kreutzer’s discography is slowly increasing in girth. Born illegitimate in Aachen in 1790 he wrote a fair amount of chamber music, mainly for solo guitar and for flute and combinations thereof. He was certainly a guitar (and probably violin) teacher but also aspired to bigger forms, writing at least one symphony, now lost. He apparently also displayed curmudgeonly qualities in his dealings with others and led opposition to Mendelssohn in Düsseldorf in the mid-1830s.

His Op. 9 Trios for violin, flute and guitar turn out to be well-crafted and fluent examples of haus or plein air music. The guitar trio was a favoured one at the time – it was mobile and portable and often used in outdoors summer concerts. The trios were published in 1823 and are overwhelmingly classical in orientation, mixing sonata and serenade form; all are written in three movements. As Johann Daitzsch’s notes so rightly state, imitation and repetition, unisons and soloistic passages are the order of the day in these homely and unpretentious pieces – ones however that do make demands of the performers. The guitar often accompanies in thirds. There are a number of truly felicitous moments in the four trios – the flute and violin unison in the Adagio of the first trio for example over rippling guitar accompaniment; the lighthearted finale of the same work with its alternate fast runs. Or the grazioso guitar and answering phrases of the second, a more fluid and lyric work than the first trio. Its Andante is a series of variations on the French song Ah vous dirai je Maman and is accomplished. The Third trio has fresh fluency and lyricism – Kreutzer was no mean tunesmith – and he balances the instruments in the Adagio of the Fourth with an insider’s ear for dynamics and the carrying power of each instrument. Things are well scaled – notably by the Gragnani Trio, named after another famed writer for the guitar trio medium. The recording is sympathetic and the playing never tries too hard – which means the music, enjoyable and slight, emerges in proper perspective and with naturalness.

Jonathan Woolf

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