One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here
 

 

International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger              Founding Editor: Rob Barnett              Contact Seen and Heard here

Some items
to consider

  • Henze Kammermusik 1958
  • Mozart Flute Quartets
  • Schubert complete piano works
  • Sammartini: 6 Concerti grossi
  • Henze Kammermusik 1958
 
Tudor



CD and Blue-ray Audio


CD and Blue-ray Audio


CPE Bach Cantatas
a revelation


Biber: Sacred Choral Works
Don't miss it


Jonathan Dove


Tommie Haglund
Unique and Powerful music


Organ Fireworks


Highly Entertaining


A triumphant performance


Bruckner Symphony 4
One of the finest I have heard


A most joy-inducing recording


A winning partnership


A Lohengrin to treasure.

 

REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and get a free CD

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical



Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing this from
Friedrich Ernst FESCA (1789-1826)
Complete String Quartets - vol.1
Quartet no.1 in E flat, op.1 no.1 (1815) [29:09]
Quartet no.2 in F sharp minor, op.1 no.2 (1815) [28:31]
Potpourri no.2 n B flat, op.11 [8:21]
Quartet no.3 in B flat, op.1 no.3 (1815) [24:28]
Quartet no.7 in A minor, op.3 no.1 (1816) [20:07]
Quartet no.8 in D, op.3 no.2 (1816) [20:25]
Quartet no.13 in D minor, op.12 (1818-19) [32:10]
Quartet no.15 in D, op.34 (1814) [20:57]
Quartet no.9 in E flat, op.3 no.3 (1816) [22:16]
Diogenes Quartet (Stefan Kirpal, Gundula Kirpal (violins), Stephanie Krauss (viola), Stephen Ristau (cello))
rec. Bayerischer Rundfunk Studio 2, Munich, 18-20 October 2007, 3-5 June 2009, 7-9 July 2010.
CPO 777 482-2 [3 CDs: 66:01 + 65:00 + 75:23]

Magdeburg-born Friedrich Fesca was a close contemporary of Schubert who, alas, also succumbed prematurely, dying from consumption aged only 37. He still managed to compose sixteen splendid string quartets, though, of which the German Diogenes Quartet present the first half on this three-CD set from the ever-providing CPO label.
 
Some adventurous collectors may recall that a decade or so ago CPO issued Fesca's three symphonies on a pair of recordings. These were substantial and impressive works, but as a violinist-composer, Fesca gravitated towards chamber music. Who else but CPO recorded his flute quartets fairly recently (777 126-2), whilst his four string quintets remain for the time being unrecorded. It is to the string quartet medium, though, that Fesca was clearly drawn most, and his corpus in this area was a staple of the repertoire for a good few decades of the nineteenth century. According to his New Grove biography, he was, between 1816 and 1826 "the most frequently reviewed composer in this genre in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung" – some achievement, considering who else was writing quartets in this period.
 
Though Fesca's opus numbers are not an entirely faithful guide to publication dates – the folk-influenced op.34 quartet, for example, appeared a year before the op.1 set - these are all mature works, all likely dating from some time during his mid- to late-twenties. In some respects Fesca was a fairly conservative composer – not Beethoven or Schubert, but rather Mozart and Haydn tended to be his models. Yet, in a case made unequivocally here by the Diogenes Quartet, he was undeniably original – these quartets are outstanding exemplars by any measure.
 
Whilst retaining the dimensional elegance of Classicism, in their understated virtuosity and especially in their harmonic fullness they overlap with the early Romantics. The twelve movements of the three quartets of op.1 are formally and expressively majestic, resembling late Haydn but with added melancholy or wistfulness - surely among the most impressive of all nineteenth-century opp.1.
 
Fesca takes a cheerier approach, more reminiscent at times of Mendelssohn – to whom he bore some physical resemblance, incidentally, but who was at this time still a young child - in the three shorter quartets of op.3. The D minor op.12 came a few years later, at a time when Beethoven was still silent in this genre and shortly before Schubert's famous single movement in C minor, D.703. Fesca's work is five times as long as Schubert's, but it certainly shares some of its dramatic intensity, the minor key further heightening the emotional discomfiture that Fesca does not, however, allow to descend into melodrama. He is here more forward-facing; his son, Alexander, also to become a short-lived musician (1820-49) of some renown, was soon to be born. What a sad irony that he had only a few years more to live.

Even the Potpourri – not a work title normally associated with musical depth - has 'quality' stamped all over it. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that, should the quality of Fesca's writing reach the same levels in the second half of the CPO cycle – to be performed by the Amaryllis Quartet, by the way - then the connoisseur at least will understand the phrase "the sixteen string quartets" to have a second referent of exceptional merit! In fact, there can be no rational explanation for their disappearance and especially continued absence from the quartet repertoire. Without question, the Diogenes Quartet have an artistic advantage over rivals with these works in their stock. It goes without saying that their superb musicianship is an even greater asset: across the three years of these recordings their technique, togetherness and sense of expression are truly admirable.
 
Engineering quality is very good in all respects. Player inhalations, a bane of so many quartet recordings, have been laudably kept to the background. An error on the back inlay gives CD2's individual playing-times for CD 3 also; the latter does in fact give an extra ten minutes' worth of music.
 
Byzantion
Contact at artmusicreviews.co.uk