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Johann Wenzel KALLIWODA (1801-1866)
String Quartet No. 1 in E minor, Op. 61 (pub. 1835) [26:01]
String Quartet No. 2 in A major, Op. 62 (pub. 1836) [19:52]
String Quartet No. 3 in G major, Op. 90 (pub. 1838) [30:13]
Quatuor Talich (Talich Quartet): (Jan Talich, violin; Petr Macecek, violin; Vladimir Bukac, viola; Petr Prause, cello)
rec. March 2005, ArcoDiva Studio, Prague, Czech Republic. DDD
CALLIOPE CAL9357 [76:22]



I was delighted to receive this stunning and exciting Calliope disc. Less than a year ago Kalliwoda was a composer completely unknown to me. Thankfully, owing to a handful of recent recordings from CPO, MDG, Orfeo and now Calliope, a quantity of Kalliwoda’s music is now available in the catalogues.
 
The rehabilitation of Prague-born Kalliwoda follows in the wake of a growing interest in the music of composers from Bohemian and surrounding regions. Currently the composers that are holding my interest are Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745); Jan Vaclav Antonín Stamic (Stamitz) (1717-1757); Jiří Antonín Benda (1722-1795); Josef Myslivecek (1737-81) and Jan Ladislav Dusík (Dussek) (1760-1812).
 
Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda (Jan (Křtitel) Václav Kalivoda) was one of the first violin students in the newly-founded Prague Conservatory. He attended there 1811-15. We are told that his diploma states that he was an, “excellent player solo or in an orchestra … shows great talent in composition.” After graduating from the Conservatory with honours he became in 1816 a member of the Prague Theatre Orchestra until he left in 1821 to embark on a career as a touring violinist visiting Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany. Eventually he decided in favour of security and stability. For almost forty years, from 1822 until his retirement in 1865, he was engaged as Maestro di cappella (Kapellmeister) under Prince Karl Egon II of Fürstenburg in Donaueschingen, Germany.
 
The court post at the Donaueschingen permitted Kalliwoda the time to write a large number of compositions. He has over 450 scores to his credit of which 244 were published with opus numbers. He wrote in a wide variety of genres that included two operas; ten masses; seven symphonies and 16 or 18 overtures. He was held in high regard by many distinguished contemporaries. Robert Schumann, who at one time championed Kalliwoda’s music, dedicated to him his set of Six Intermezzi for piano, Op. 4 (1832).
 
Kalliwoda’s reputation had spread abroad and his New Overture in D was played at the founding and first concert of the New York Philharmonic, then known as the ‘Philharmonic Society’ of New York, held at the Apollo Rooms in Lower Broadway on 7 December 1842. The programme of the Philharmonic Society concert contained Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 (referred to as the Grand Symphony in C minor); Weber’s Oberon Overture; a Quintet in D minor by Hummel; arias and a duet from operas by Mozart; Beethoven and Weber and that New Overture in D by Kalliwoda. Ureli Corelli Hill, a conductor, violinist and president of the Philharmonic Society of New York had been a pupil of the composer and virtuoso violinist Louis Spohr in Kassel, Germany. It seems likely that the prestigious New York performance under what was almost certainly a provisional title came about as a result of the association that Hill had with Spohr; Kalliwoda would probably have known both Hill and Spohr. Whether or not Kalliwoda’s New Overture in D was especially commissioned by the Philharmonic Society is a matter of conjecture.
 
The performers on this release are the distinguished Talich Quartet. Founded in 1964 by Jan Talich senior during his studies at the Prague Conservatory where Kalliwoda had also studied. The Talich have developed into one of the foremost ensembles in the world and they have been prolific in the recording studio. Most notably they have recorded the complete string quartets of Mozart on Calliope Cal 3241.8 and Beethoven on Calliope Cal 3633.9 receiving many prizes including a Diapason d`Or; Grand Prix du Disque; Diapason du Siècle and a Gold Disque from Supraphon.
 
From the 1990s there has been a gradual change in the membership with the line-up now comprising leader Jan Talich using a J.B. Vuillaume (1845), second violinist Petr Macecek with a Francesco Ruggieri (1694), violist Vladimir Bukac using a Lorenzo Guadagnini (1742) and cellist Petr Prause playing a J. Gagliano (1795).
 
In addition to their specialist interpretations of Czech music, the Talich have a broad-ranging repertoire, a spectrum that includes the main works of the standard Classical repertoire and the major 20th century pieces. I have especially enjoyed their 2001/03 Prague recordings of the complete Mendelssohn string quartets on a 3 disc set on Calliope Cal 3311.3.
 
The present three string quartets were composed by Kalliwoda at the behest of publisher Carl Gotthelf Böhme of Peters in Leipzig. Böhme stipulated that the scores should be, “non-concertant for the first violin, with the music nicely divided up among the instruments, not heavy for any of them, and in the beautiful style of Mozart.” In accordance with the conditions of his assignment Kalliwoda shares out the music more equally among the various instruments in the ‘Classical’ layout rather than just focusing on the role of the first violin in the manner of the Quatuor brillant. The writing for the first violin part remains prominent but not at the expense of the composition as a whole.
 
Kalliwoda was composing these string quartets circa 1835-38 contemporaneous with quartets from Cherubini, Spohr and Mendelssohn. At this time Mozart had completed his quartets some forty years previously; Haydn’s quartets thirty years before and those of Beethoven less than a decade earlier. Kalliwoda may well have known these works. I was struck by how these quartets reminded me of an amalgam of Haydn, Mozart and Mendelssohn. Whereas the string quartets of Cherubini, composed 1814-37, seem more influenced by Haydn and to a lesser degree by Mozart.
 
The opening work is the String Quartet No. 1 published in 1835 and dedicated to Kalliwoda’s friend Joseph Graff of Prague. In the lengthy opening movement Allegro moderato the Talich display considerable self-assured playing giving an air of suave nobility to the writing. The second movement Adagio is a tender love song of rare beauty, that one could easily imagine being sung like an aria. It is performed with consummate control. Here Kalliwoda’s poetic lyricism embarks us on a marvellous journey that I wish would never end. This Adagio has been described as having an affinity with the Andante cantabile of Mozart’s String Quartet No. 19 in C major, K465 'Dissonance' (1785).
 
The third movement Allegro is a remarkably inventive and stunning Scherzo that is played almost entirely pizzicato. The scampering and good-humoured temperament is interrupted at 1:43-2:35 with an episode of folk-like melody with a strangely Celtic character. I may stand corrected but Kalliwoda must surely be one of the first composers to present a pizzicato movement in a string quartet. The final movement marked Vivace is performed by the Talich with an assured vitality, ending the score in a mood of disquiet and a weighty element of turmoil. With regard to the use of pizzicato in the third movement I wonder if the composer had heard the episodes of plucked strings in the opening movement of Haydn’s String Quartet in E flat-major, Op. 74 Harp’ (1809) a device also employed by Mendelssohn in the Canzonetta of his String Quartet in E flat major, Op. 12 (1829).
 
Published in 1836 the String Quartet No. 2 was dedicated to Frantisek Max Knjze, his friend, a fellow musician and conductor from Prague. The score opens with a substantial movement marked Allegro vivace that is dominated by the sparkling rhythms of the mazurka; evidently a characteristic Kalliwoda tool. Here the Talich bring out a distinct Mendelssohnian quality to this scampering and highly attractive movement. The very short Scherzo, marked Presto is played with a vigour that borders on the frenetic. I detected a slight hesitancy from the leader in the opening section. From 1:28-2:05 there is an operatic quality to the writing with fluid and congenial melodies.
 
The first violin of Jan Talich takes centre-stage in the bittersweet Adagio (attacca) with a delightful theme of passionate yearning. In the final movement marked Vivace Kalliwoda’s rapid writing has the quality of a Paganini Moto perpetuo. The Talich alter the mood drastically between 1:07 and 2:26 to one of languid tenderness. At 2:37 the swift opening tempo is repeated delivering to the music a dramatic conclusion.
 
The final work on the set is the String Quartet No. 3 that was published in 1838 bearing the dedication to Peter Josef von Lindpaintner, a composer and maître de chapelle at the Stuttgart court. The lengthy opening movement, marked Moderato is highly rhythmic and performed by the Talich with lofty intensity. Especially noticeable here is Kalliwoda’s weighty cello writing. There are one or two untidy passages from the first violin in the strenuous and demanding writing. In the hands of the Talich the brisk and agitated tempo of the Scherzo marked Vivace was evocative to me of a loose horse galloping wild through wooded countryside. The Trio at 2:21-4:37 provides a welcome respite and here it feels like the nervous stallion is taking a refreshing drink from a cool stream before galloping away to an uncertain freedom. In the third movement Adagio the players communicate an underlying restive quality that precludes the listener from feeling totally at ease. Bold and vigorous themes dominate this helter-skelter and ebullient closing movement where the melodies vary from the gypsy-like to the martial. A special feature in this movement is Kalliwoda’s occasional use of harmonics.
 
The booklet notes are interesting and reasonably informative. However the track-listing inadvertently reverses the second and third tracks which should read: Adagio (track 2) followed by the Allegro. Scherzo (track 3). Recorded in 2005 at the ArcoDiva Studio in Prague the Calliope engineers are to be heartily congratulated for providing clear, natural and well balanced sound quality.
 
For those who wish to further explore Kalliwoda’s music a quick check has revealed the following recordings. In addition there are several other multi-composer discs that include Kalliwoda oboe and clarinet scores:
 
Overture No. 12; Introduction & Variations for clarinet & orchestra; Introduction & Rondo for horn & orchestra; Symphony No. 3 performed by Dieter Klöcker (clarinet); Radovan Vlatkovic (horn); Hamburg Symphony/Johannes Moesus on Musikproduktion Dabringhaus and Grimm, MDG 329 1387-2 (see review).

Symphonies Nos. 5 & 6 performed by Hofkapelle Stuttgart/Frieder Bernius on Orfeo C 677 061.
 
Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7; Overture No. 16 performed on original instruments by the Das Neue Orchester/Christoph Spering CPO 777 139-2 (see review).
 
These three string quartets from Kalliwoda are not ground-breaking scores but are exciting discoveries that merit a place in the chamber music repertoire. In excellent performances these neglected but highly gratifying quartets demand to be heard by a wide audience. Lovers of chamber music, especially admirers of Haydn, Mozart and Mendelssohn, will be in their element with this important Calliope release.

Michael Cookson

 

 

 


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