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Adalbert GYROWETZ (1763-1850)
String Quartet in G, Op. 29 No. 2 [27:19]
String Quartet in D, Op. 13 No. 1 [20:45]
String Quartet in E flat, Op. 29 No. 1 [24:52]
Pleyel Quartet, Cologne
rec. 4-7 June 2012, Siemensvilla, Berlin
CPO 777 770-2 [72:56]

Born Vojtěch Matyáš Jírovec in the Czech country town which one day would be home to the original Budweiser brewery, Adalbert Gyrowetz spent his youth in Bohemia, then moved on to Vienna, Paris, and London. Mozart conducted one of his symphonies; in London Salomon commissioned more symphonies, and Gyrowetz got to meet another of Salomon's favorite composers, Haydn. In Paris, Gyrowetz apparently discovered that a publisher had been printing his symphonies with Haydn's name on the front. There are at least fifty string quartets and symphonies, and a few dozen violin sonatas, too. A recording of three string quartets once appeared on Hyperion.
 
The publisher who accidentally confused Gyrowetz with Haydn had a point. These string quartets have all Haydn’s best qualities: they may not break the mold, but they’re cheery, they have genuinely memorable tunes, each is crafted with great skill, and the works are full of unique touches. Each of the quartets opens with a broad, flowing tune which could do Haydn proud, and each contains its share of wit and more than a usual amount of harmonic spice.
 
In the D major Quartet, the finale deceptively begins in a minor key; in the E flat Quartet's menuetto, watch out for some startling dissonances. The first time I heard them I thought something had gone wrong. Nope: some cheeky, daring fun. The G major quartet’s scherzo has a “trio al roverscio” or “trio in reverse” which does indeed present part of the scherzo theme backwards. As I said: these quartets are constantly entertaining.
 
The Pleyel Quartet of Cologne plays very well on period instruments. If CPO wants to commit to more Gyrowetz with these forces, I’ll try my best to hear all of it. In addition to the dozens of string quartets, Wikipedia reports a quintet with added viola and a quintet in E minor, Op. 39, for, intriguingly, “flute, violin, violas and cello.” Given how inventive and pleasing this first album is, I’ll be excited for any more that are on the way.
 
Brian Reinhart 


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