With Centaur Records

Catalog Number: CRC 2708
CRC 2708
: Franz Danzi: Quartets Op. 40 for bassoon, violin, viola and cello:
No. 1 in C Major;
No. 2 in D Minor;
No. 3 in B Major;
Island Danzi cover

bassoon – Jane Gower
violin – Antoinette Lohmann
viola – Galina Zinchenko
cello – Jennifer Morsches

Sample tracks:
1. movt. 1 allegretto of d-minor quartet:

2. movt. 1 minuet to of d-minor quartet:

Note: these tracks are MP3 files and are not to the same quality as the CD.


Review by David Vernier

Classics Today

Franz Danzi: Quartets, Op.40, Centaur Records
Score: 10/10

I must confess that along with the flute, trumpet, accordion, and glass harmonica, the bassoon is among the musical instruments I’d rather not spend an hour with–listening, that is (not that there’s anything particularly wrong with any of the above-mentioned instruments, in a certain, preferably non-solo context). But something about this CD compelled me to listen (okay, the rhinoceros-and-exotic-birds cover had something to do with it), and 72-and-a-half minutes later I was still listening. This is one delightful disc, featuring a program of eminently attractive music, very well played–and superbly recorded. In fact, as chamber music recordings go, you won’t find any better in terms of sound, which is amazingly clear, clean, and natural, with perfectly balanced instrumental placement and lifelike presence. But I have to admit, the star here is the bassoon–and you have to know, it’s no “ordinary” bassoon. The very impressive Jane Gower plays an 18th-century instrument that shows a warmly reedy timbre (as opposed to snarlingly reedy, as with the modern bassoon) that falls easy on the ear and commands an expressive range that rivals more respected performers such as the cello or French horn.

Although the repertoire offers nothing innovative–it’s stylistically very much of its time (1813) and place (south-west Germany) and much indebted to Beethoven and perhaps Haydn–Danzi not only was a fine melodist but also had a knack for effectively exploiting the bassoon’s unique voice. Each of these quartets integrates a singing bassoon line with the independently-voiced string textures to create a colorful and congenial ensemble that doesn’t tire the ear or become routine. In fact, there’s lots of variety in the character of the movements, and Danzi also shows an inclination toward an occasional surprising harmonic effect or thematic or rhythmic twist that belies his “conservative” reputation. How, for instance, can you resist the charming “polonaise” final movement of the C major quartet, its virtuoso flourishes craftily layered between deceptively straightforward passages? The performances are first-rate, and the ensemble finesse and absolutely right emphases, inflections, and other expressive decisions make for a thoroughly entertaining–and delightfully rewarding–listening experience. Go ahead, take a chance.

This CD is available for purchase direct from from the Centaur website.