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Trio for flute, clarinet and guitar in A major, Op.16 [17:44]
Wenzeslaus MATIEGKA (1773-1830)
Notturno, from Op.18 for clarinet, horn and guitar in E flat [10:46]
Anton DIABELLI (1781-1858)
Notturno for flute and guitar in A major [20:21]
Archduke RUDOLPH OF AUSTRIA (1788-1831)
Serenade for clarinet, viola, bassoon and guitar in B flat [23:28]
Consortium Classicum: Mirjam Nastasi (flute); Dieter Klöcker (clarinet); Helman Jung (bassoon); Jan Schroeder (horn); Niklas Schwarz (viola); Sonja Prunnbauer (guitar)
rec. 26-28 May 2008, Ehem, Ackerhaus der Abtei Marienmünster, DDD
Experience Classicsonline

The particular charm of this music is that it is simultaneously domestic and romantic. The guitar is at its heart rather than the piano - all the pieces avoid the use of instruments such as the piano or, for that matter, the cello, which are non-portable. That two of the pieces carry the title notturno and one that of serenade implies the possibility of outdoor performance; the guitar’s intimacy here suggests a degree of privacy in performance: the garden, as it were, rather than the concert stage. The nocturnal moods correspond, of course, to romanticism’s fascination with shadows and twilight, expressed here in music of gentle meditations on transience and the sweetness of melancholy rather than in music of grandeur, emotional extremes or large-scale structures.

To describe this music as domestic involves the recognition that the ‘house’ (the domus) might be a palace, since one of the composers involved is no less than Archduke Rudolph of Austria, youngest son of Emperor Leopold II and perhaps Beethoven’s most significant patron (as well as Beethoven’s composition student). Certainly Beethoven dedicated more works to him than to anyone else. His Serenade is a thoroughly competent piece, which makes attractive use of the colours available from the largest ensemble heard here and has some decidedly pleasant themes. It breathes a kind of generous humanity and dignity which is very attractive. Hardly a ’lost masterpiece’ but music which did a job in its own time and can still do one - played on my iPod it soothed the nerves on a hectic train journey!

Wenzeslaus Matiegka belonged to what was a rather different social world. Born in Bohemia studied law at the University of Prague before taking a job with Count Kinsky on his estate at Clumetz, a job found for him by his private music teacher, Abbé Joseph Gelinek. The lure of music proved rather greater than that of a career as a lawyer and in 1800 Matiegka moved to Vienna, initially working as a teacher of guitar and piano before, in 1817, obtaining the post of choral director at the parish church of St. Leopold in the suburb of Leopoldstadt,. But the appointment seems to have lasted only a few years and the last six or seven years of his life appear to have been lived in considerable poverty, with the composer struggling to support his family in the years before his death. Though he found it difficult to make his way, financially speaking, in a world which was changing rapidly, both socially and musically, Matiegka’s talents were real enough, as is well evidenced by the Notturno recorded here. The work is made up of series of movements and the title is editorial rather than original (but largely apt). The piece begins with a theme and four variations and these are succeeded by a minuet, a dance alla zingarese and a march. The unusual combination of instruments makes possible some intriguing effects and colours, the contrast of guitar and horn often effective and the resulting music thoroughly distinctive. The third movement (zingara) has some lovely lyrical writing, especially for the horn and the clarinet and the final march has wit and charm.

Relatively little seems to be known of Joseph Kreutzer: born illegitimately, he became a violinist and spent some years as concertmaster of the Dusseldorf orchestra - though being a difficult and litigious man - and was an early teacher of Norbert Burgmüller. His Trio for flute, clarinet and guitar is a well constructed piece in three movements which, while it is unambitious, has more than a few attractive passages and is eminently listenable throughout. It is played here with attractive lightness of touch and fluidity.

The fourth of the composers represented brings us back to Beethovenian associations - Anton Diabelli. As a young man Diabelli established himself in Vienna as a teacher of guitar and piano and as a proficient arranger and composer. After working as a proof-reader for a music publisher, he set up his own business and the publication of substantial and serious works by important composers was cross-subsidised by the publication of many popular pieces for home music-making. It has been suggested that it was the popular presence of Mauro Giuliani in Vienna from 1806 to 1819 which did much to make the instrument popular and to make clear to Diabelli the commercial advantages in writing - and publishing - works for it, something which Diabelli did very extensively. A favourite combination of instruments was that of flute and guitar as heard in the Notturno recorded here. Mirjam Nastasi and Sonja Prunnbauer bring technical assurance and apt sensibilities to the performance of this music, responding to its intimacy and sense of scale but also acknowledging its relative sophistication. They resist any temptation to over-inflate the piece, while not treating it casually either - they seem to have the balance just right, in more senses than one.

This is a CD of engaging music, music which has no great pretensions and makes no excessive claims for itself, but constantly satisfied ear and mind when played and recorded as well as this.

Glyn Pursglove 


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