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Joseph MAYSEDER (1789-1863)
Chamber Music Volume 4
String Quartet No. 2 in G minor Op. 6 (1811) [30:30]
String Quintet No. 2 in A minor Op. 51 (1830) [29:40]
Wiener Mayseder Ensemble
rec. 2016/18, Studio Wavegarden, Mitterretzbach, Austria
GRAMOLA 99184 [60:15]

I must admit that the name of the Viennese composer and violinist Joseph Mayseder is one totally new to me. As a lover of string quartets, it was the prospect of an unusual early nineteenth century quartet and the review by David Barker of String Quartets Nos. 5 and 6 (Gramola 99148) that sparked my interest in this disc – an interest that on this evidence will be further investigated.

Something of a child prodigy, Joseph Mayseder gave his first public performance as a violinist at the age of ten. He took part in many premiere performances of works by the likes of Haydn and Schubert. He had an affinity with Beethoven who personally asked him to take part in performances of his string quartets and perform the violin solo in the premiere of his cantata Der glorreiche Augenblick. Mayseder also performed in the premieres of the 7th and 9th Symphonies, all of which were conducted by Beethoven. Joseph Mayseder was a devoted family man, which led to few concert tours. He did however have numerous engagements in Vienna where he would perform with the leading pianists of the day, including the likes of Franz Liszt, Carl Loewe and probably Clara Wieck. As a composer, his work was performed by leading musicians throughout Europe and America, with Henry Vieuxtemps, Ole Bull, Giovanni Bottesini and Franz Liszt all touring his music.

Despite their minor home keys, the two works presented here are bright and affirming with some beautiful passages. The earliest of the two is the G minor String Quartet, which despite its opus number was his fourth work to be published. This is a very mature sounding piece and one that is undated. The year 1811 is that of publication and the work was probably composed in the previous year or two. In this piece Mayseder moves away from the classical view of Haydn and points towards the romantic period, indeed the excellent booklet notes quote Salome Reiser’s work on Franz Schubert’s Early String Quartets in which she discusses Joseph Mayseder as an influence on Schubert. There is certainly a degree of compositional skill in evidence here, with the opening Allegro being quite dramatic in character. This is followed by the wonderful Andante with its lovely lilting theme and some demanding writing for the first violin, which would probably have been for himself to perform in concerts. The Menuetto. Allegretto third movement is more like a dramatic scherzo in character with its central trio section making quite a contrast to the faster sections. The final Allegro molto is again dramatic in character with the second violin, viola and cello driving the action whilst the first violin goes along a separate path. The more tender second theme is led by the first violin in a sunny interval before the bleaker and darker closing bars.

The notes by violinist Raimund Lissy point towards the awkward gestation of the String Quintet, with the original version being for violin, two violas and two cellos, before being revised to the more normal instrumentation of two violins, two violas and one cello. The autograph score is dated 28th December 1830, some twenty years after the Quartet. It opens with a movement that lives up to its Allegro agitato title, with its furiously bowed section giving way to a lyrical one before returning to more agitated music. Again, it is the slow second movement that forms the heart of the work, with its quite lovely lilting theme being supported by the plucked cello. The third movement Scherzo has a main theme being based upon a short-repeated phrase before it gives way to a more classically orientated central trio section. The final movement marked Finale. Allegro vivace races towards the conclusion; its first theme a gallop in the higher strings over the bass of the cello whilst the second theme offers a more lyrical section. This gives way to the first theme, which ends with a motif akin to Beethoven. It then ushers in the return of the second theme, which this time includes some stratospheric writing for the first violin, before the main theme comes back again for the final time in a headlong rush to the work’s conclusion.

This is a splendid disc, excellently performed throughout by the Wiener Mayseder Ensemble, who do Joseph Mayseder proud with their championing of this forgotten music. The booklet notes by Raimund Lissy, who seems to be the impetus behind this series, are informative and give a good comprehensive narrative of the composer and his music. The recorded sound is very good indeed, with a detailed rendition of the performance, making this a valuable account of some unjustly neglected and highly recommended music.

Stuart Sillitoe

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