These were apparently the first recordings of Wranitzky’s
Quintet and Sextet when made by the original instrument Ensemble
Cordia back in 2009. The Bohemian composer, ‘faithful
servant to the Hapsburgs’ as the notes entitle him, studied
in Brno and Vienna, and then, after the reforms of Joseph II
which curtailed Catholic privilege, moved from the composition
of church to secular music. He was a notable violinist, too,
and taught Prince Lobkowitz in whose orbit he then travelled.
The Prince was one of Beethoven’s patrons and Wranitzky
performed a number of first private performances his works at
the Prince’s palaces: the Eroica, Fifth and Pastoral
symphonies among them.
Wranitzky’s chamber music is enjoyable, fluent and sports
a degree of novelty. The String Quintet in E flat, composed
around 1800, for example, is not the usual line-up. Instead
there is only one violin, two violas and two cellos. True, it
opens in strict sonata form and there is quite some concertante
role for the sole fiddle. But Wranitzky cannily ensures that
sonorities are ochre in colour and texture - he must have had
some expert violists in his orchestra at the royal palaces from
whom to draw on. Wranitzky has a habit in this work of resorting
to repeated rounds of daemonic scalar activity, which is not
unattractive and suggests a degree of urgency if not necessarily
overmuch melodic distinction. The slow movement is taken con
moto as written and it really is quite a breezy affair -
in conception and, here, execution. There is some attractive
decoration and sure elegance rather than any overt pathos. That’s
reserved for the opening of the finale, after the bright scherzo.
This slow passage exudes piety and breadth in its prayerful
unisons, before Wranitzky unleashes the dogs of Bohemian frolic
in a folkloric finale. There’s assured nonchalance in
this kind of writing, and it’s successfully conveyed in
this fine performance.
The String Sextet is also unusual in its composition - two violins,
two violas and two cellos, a line-up more redolent of Brahms,
say, than a follower of Haydn. It’s another warmly aerated
work, less characterful, perhaps, but not lacking classical
structures and ingratiating touches. The opening of the three
movements is energetic, and the central movement a more obviously
reflective one - albeit an Allegretto - than in the companion
chamber work. There’s a stately Adagio introduction
to the finale but it lacks the austere perspective of the similar
section in the Quintet. The finale, as so often with Wranitzky,
is songful, fluent, light-hearted and engaging.
A well judged recording, allied to stylistically apt performances,
ensures an excellent, albeit short-timed, disc.