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Carl STAMITZ (1745-1801)
Orchestral Quartet in F, Op. 14 No. 4 (1776) [20:58]
Concertante Quartet in B-flat, Op. 14 No. 5 (1776) [15:00]
Concertante Quartet in G, Op. 14 No. 2 (1776) [12:56]
Orchestral Quartet in C, Op. 14 No. 1 (1776) [18:00]
NZSO Chamber Orchestra/Donald Armstrong
rec. 3-6 Oct. 2004, Sacred Heart Cathedral, Wellington, New Zealand
NAXOS 8.557671 [66:55]

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Naxos has now brought to four the number of CDs dedicated exclusively to the son of Johann Stamitz, the leader of the Mannheim court orchestra. It was from his father that Carl got a substantial share of his own musical education before working under the tutelage of Franz Xaver Richter and Christian Cannabich.  The younger Carl took his place in the orchestra as second violinist before becoming court composer for Duke Louis of Noailles in France, where he stayed for some time before moving on to take his talent on the road with extensive touring throughout Europe.
We have on this release two-thirds of the quartets published as Op. 14, the two not included being specifically written as traditional quartets.  Stamitz’s Orchestral Quartets were intended as a sort of “convertible” orchestral piece, designed to be played as works for a rather small-sized string orchestra or as a true quartet.  These are eminently listenable, with plenty of lovely melodies to enjoy.  The two Concertante quartets prominently feature a single violin part and, according to the liner notes, are more ambiguous regarding their “convertible” quartet-or-orchestral status. They seem, in the listening, to be more likely to have been written to be performed as orchestral pieces.  I agree with our previous reviewer in choosing the Orchestral Quartet No. 4 as my personal favourite on the disc, but all of the works here hold great pleasure for the listener, including the charming interplay of solo violin parts throughout the Concertante Quartet No. 2 - such as at 1:25 in the opening movement and at 0:45 in the third.  The central slow movement of the No. 2 has a wonderful sense of poise and balance, with brief  solo and duet moments rising over the placid surface of the backing strings before things tip gracefully into the ending Presto.
The NZSO Chamber Orchestra performs these pieces with a verve and effervescence that is warmly recorded.  I’ve returned to these pieces often over the course of the past rather bleakly overcast and sodden week and they bring with them their own sunshine. 
David Blomenberg

see also review by Patrick Waller 


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