Franz Danzi is one
of those ‘in between’ composers, whose lifetime straddled the
era of Mozart (who Danzi knew and admired as a youth), and Beethoven
(of whom Danzi also knew, but probably only partially understood).
Franz was the son of Innocenzo Danzi, a cellist in the Johann
Stamitz’s famous Mannheim orchestra, and whose chair he would
eventually take over. As such the younger Franz was an eminently
practical musician, knowing his orchestral instruments inside-out.
His work is as a result thoroughly crafted and idiomatic, equally
fun to play as to listen to in concert.
Antonín Rejcha (1770-1836)
had already paved the way for this form with his 24 wind quintets,
which are characterised with a refinement more associated with
the already highly advanced string quartet. Danzi’s nine quintets
were probably written between 1820 and 1824, appearing in the
groups of three which allow for such symmetry in these three
discs. Opus 56 is dedicated to Antonín Rejcha, and all follow
the then popular four movement pattern of sonata form first
movement, lyrical song form second, minuet third – sometimes
with something of a scherzo character, and rondo finale. The
piano quintets for piano and winds also represent Danzi’s entire
output for these combinations, Opp. 53 and 54 for purely woodwind
quartet and piano, with the piano taking a more prominent, almost
concerto role. Opus 41 is more evenly matched, with subtle dialogues
between piano and winds having more in common with the playful
way in which Danzi employs such exchanges during the wind quintets.
This music is what
we impresarios describe to clients as ‘light classical’, but
with many such cases, the more you listen, the more there is
to enjoy. Like a Fragonard painting, you can enjoy it as entertaining
fluff, and then you can look closer at the detail, the individual
characters and the way they interact, and discover that there
is more to the work than meets the eye at first glance. There
are some surprising modulations and little harmonic twists here
and there, but to be fair there is little here which will make
serious intellectual demands on the listener. With these CDs
you can relax, pick up a book, and with a glass of wine or cup
of tea at your elbow, have your moments repose enhanced by what
even my 4½ year old daughter called ‘beautiful music’ after
hearing only a brief fragment over my Grado headphones between
running around and destroying things. What is beautiful is not
only the composition, but the playing and recording as well.
Perfectly balanced and intonated, the Berlin Philharmonic Wind
Quintet were all members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,
and formed their ensemble in 1988 when Herbert von Karajan was
still in charge. The quintet recordings are all set in an appropriately
resonant acoustic, the piano quintets slightly less so, but
still with an appealing warmth and gentle flow to the sound
which suits the form completely. There are plenty of opportunities
for virtuosic display alongside the well-turned phrases and
superbly crafted melodies and instrumental interaction, and
Love Derwinger is a proven sensitive chamber musician as well
as being a powerful soloist.
These three CDs
were previously issued separately during the 1990s, and the
track listings are identical to the original volumes. They now
appear as a ‘3 for the price of 2’ set, and at over 230 minutes
of top quality playing there can be no complaints about value.
This set will enrich any chamber-music orientated shelf, and
even just knowing you have it to hand will probably improve
your life expectancy – it’s the musical equivalent of stroking
a gorgeously soft and friendly cat.