Jakub Jan RYBA (1765-1815) Flute Quartet in C (1811) [15:35]
String Quartet in A minor (1801) [7:00]
Flute Quartet in F (1811) [18:00]
String Quartet in D minor (1801) [9:56]
M. Nostitz Quartet
rec. 9-12 November 2004 Studio Arco Diva, Dumovinč,
Prague NAXOS 8.557729 [50:54]
Based on family experience
as well as other accounts, holding down the positions of
parish organist and teacher is often fraught with heartache.
Such is the case with the composer of the quite enjoyable
pieces we have here. There is some detailed information available
on the Internet regarding Ryba’s life, but unfortunately,
it all appears to be in Czech, so I am reliant on the more
general information available in English, including Keith
Anderson’s helpful liner-notes.
Ryba was born near Plzeň to
a schoolmaster. Sometimes more out of necessity than desire,
teaching was a profession that followed Ryba throughout his
abbreviated life. He found he could capitalize on his keyboard
skills and played organ for a number of churches. His time
in teaching and playing wasn’t entirely placid—he occasionally
fell into conflicts with the Pastor or the school’s administration,
which did on one occasion get him fired. Reasons for his
suicide differ, but his chronically dismal finances and friction
with antagonistic higher-ups were certainly contributing
Sadly, an immense amount of
Ryba’s music does not survive. The notes indicate that he
wrote ninety Masses and seven Requiems in addition to over
one hundred other works. This disc holds the only remaining
quartets out of over seventy that were listed at one time.
What we have in this recording shows quite a bit of charm
- as well as the mark of Haydn’s chamber music. The pieces
here also remind me of a recording I reviewed for this website
a while ago - the works of a contemporary composer Franciszek
Lessel - who shows a similar influence of Haydn and C.P.E.
Bach. Ryba’s works - at least those on this disc - are of
a smaller scale, but hold similar appeal.
This is the second disc of
Ryba’s works to come from Naxos. The other includes his most
famous work — still performed during the Christmas season
in the region in which Ryba lived and worked — a Christmas
mass, along with a shorter mass, the Missa Pastoralis,
found on Naxos 8.554428. This music is certainly a pleasure
to listen to. Of the works here, the flute quartets are each,
respectively, twice as long as the string quartets that follow.
Opening the disc is a flute quartet in C, as sunny as its
key would traditionally indicate. The lines here, as with
all of the pieces on this disc, are clean and elegantly proportioned.
Enthusiasts of Haydn’s chamber music should take note. The
majority of the brief Andante gives the melodic line
to the flute as the rest of the ensemble provides pizzicato accompaniment
before the rondo Finale brings us to a rollicking
close. A refreshing piece overall.
What the string quartets lack
in length is made up for in their gravity. Both pieces begin
with slow movements. The A minor quartet’s opening Andante
poco adagio has a tightly-constructed contrapuntalism
which gives a general impression of being backward-looking
to earlier styles, and ends just as things get interesting.
The following Menuetto brings us more up-to-date and
holds interest, but again feels rather abbreviated. The ending
movement is lovely; syncopated to throw things a touch off-kilter.
The Flute Quartet in F, from
its first notes, places us in a forest scene, with brief
interjections of birdcalls, which are tossed back and forth
amongst the members of the ensemble. The central movement
is a set of variations on a Hungarian folk tune, which give
prominence to each of the instruments, alternating with the
flute. The movement has charm but is no grand new approach
to variation movements. Overall, the piece is sunny and gregarious,
especially the triple-meter finale.
Flautist Jan Ostrý and the
M. Nostitz Quartet are quite well-balanced, with no tendency
for the brightness of the flute to overpower. The sound and
ambient presence of the recording are warm and distant enough
to allow for a sense of space without losing definition.
I certainly would recommend this for any fans of Haydn’s
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