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.
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