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Eugène WALCKIERS (1793-1866)
String Quintet No 2 in C minor, Op 94 [28:33]
String Quintet No 4 in A major, Op 108 [23:51]
rec. 2020, Studio 1, NDR, Hamburg, Germany
ES-DUR ES2084 [52:27]

You’ll be hard-pressed to find that much on CD by the French composer Eugène Walckiers. He’s best known in flute circles for his chamber music. He was born in Avesnes-sur-Helpe in 1793. After a spell of military service, in 1813 he began to study the flute with Jean-Louis Tulou, the best French flautist around at the time, and composition with Anton Reicha. In 1830 he moved to Paris, where he remained for the rest of his life. His compositions amount to more than a hundred opus numbers.

He wrote four quintets, dating from the last sixteen years of his life. Nos 2 and 4 are scored for a string quartet plus double bass. They demand a high degree of technical accomplishment on the part of the players. They run a similar plan, with comparatively lengthy openers, followed by a short dance movement, a slow movement and an animated finale. Each is cast within the classical sonata structure.

Walckiers dedicated his Second String Quintet, published in 1854, to the memory of composer George Onslow, who had died the previous year. A declamatory unison passage ushers in the opening movement. The mood is quite melancholic, but is lyrically generous. A catchy, lilting rhythm characterizes the Scherzo which follows. In the Andante religioso, the cello features centre stage with a consoling theme. The finale lifts the spirits with its verve, vivacity and sprightly gait.

The String Quintet, Op 108, is one on the composer’s final compositions, and can be guaranteed to win you over with its melodic largesse. Of the two quintets, I have a slight preference for it. It bears a dedication to a violinist by the name of Emile-Théodore Magnin. The first movement captivates with its attractive lyricism, and the fabergé-quintett respond with real warmth and commitment. A brief Minuetto is spiced up with a dance-like bolero rhythm, whilst the slow movement is tender and intimate. Walckiers calls time with a foot-tapping Rondo.

The disc has some very fine playing on offer, and recording quality is admirable. The booklet, in English, French and German, provides all the necessary background and context. These attractive performances certainly make a fine case for Walckier’s captivating and lyrically invested scores. You certainly won’t feel short-changed.

Stephen Greenbank

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