Franz Anton HOFFMEISTER (1754-1812)
Double Bass Quartet No. 2 in D [18:44]
Double Bass Quartet No. 3 in D [11:29]
Double Bass Quartet No. 4 in D [13:50]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Sonata in A minor for Arpeggione (Double-Bass) and Piano (arr. Norbert Duka), D821 [21:51]
Norbert Duka (double-bass)
Ernő Sebestyén (violin); Helmut Nikolai (viola); Martin Osertag (cello) (Hoffmeister); Phillip Moll (piano) (Schubert)
rec. Sender Freies Berlin, Germany, January 1980; Radio Bremen, September 1984 [Schubert]. DDD
NAXOS 8. 572187 [66:15]
Leaving aside his sixty-plus symphonies and nearly fifty concertos, the German-born composer Franz Hoffmeister also wrote a massive amount of chamber music, including well over two hundred duets, thirty-odd quintets and more than a hundred quartets. For once Naxos have been slow to champion a minor composer: their only previous CD of Hoffmeister's music was of his op. 14 string quartets back in 2003 - reviewed here.
Hoffmeister's three quartets were written for double-bass (replacing the standard first violin), violin, viola and cello. It is rather unfortunate that the three quartets performed here are all in D major, making an element of sameness unavoidable. Nevertheless, all three works are supremely melodious and entertaining, most reminiscent in texture and mood of the quartets of the slightly older Luigi Boccherini, with a sprinkling of Joseph Haydn. The liner-notes provide adequate technical description of the individual movements. Suffice to say here that the quartets are full of effervescence and a cheerfulness undiminished by the darker tones of the double-bass.
Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata D.821 will be familiar to many, albeit in the versions for cello or viola that are normally heard nowadays. Hungarian double-bassist Norbert Duka has produced an arrangement for his own period instrument which not only sounds very convincing, but almost seems to add further depth to Schubert's original music.
Curiously for a new release, the soloists are all now thirty years older than they were when they went into the studio - these are rather old recordings, originally issued on other labels but now re-issued by Naxos. Dating back to 1980, the Hoffmeister quartets in particular belong to the very first wave of DDD recordings. No indication is given as to whether they have been re-mastered, but the sound is decent enough in any case. Though the biographical notes do not make it especially clear, the soloists do all appear to be still alive, some into their seventies, to enjoy this republication of their worthy labours from a different era.
In sum, these are by no means important works, but for historical novelty and general attractive musicianship, this CD is worth any music-lover's consideration.
These are by no means important works, but for historical novelty and general attractive musicianship, this CD is worth any music-lover's consideration.