Franz Danzi (1763-1826)
Quatuor, Oeuvre 40, Nr.1, en do majeur pour basson, violon, alto, et violoncelle
allegretto
andante
minuetto; allegretto
polonaise

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Streichtrio B-Dur, D.471
allegro

Franz Danzi (1763-1826)
Quatuor, Oeuvre 40, Nr.2, en re mineur pour basson, violon, alto, et violoncelle
allegretto
andante con moto
minuetto; allegretto
allegretto

As a composer, Franz Danzi can most easily be classified as an exponent of the Mannheimer School. The first decades of his life were spent in this German city, a vibrant cultural and musical centre at the time, as a cellist in the orchestra of the National Theatre, as conductor of incidental music, and in studying composition with Abbé Vogler at the Mannheim School of Music. Engagements which followed included deputy Kapellmeister in Munich, concert tours throughout Europe with his wife, a prima donna, and later Kapellmeister in Stuttgart and Karlsruhe. In Stuttgart he became very close friends with Carl Maria von Weber, widely proclaimed nowadays as the founder of German Romantic opera. The respect and affection was mutual. In theatres he directed Danzi performed many of Weber’s operas, and even helped the younger composer with his operatic composition, whereas Weber made tribute to Danzi in many of his writings. Danzi’s many dramatic works, his Singspiels, ballet and incidental music, which form a great part of his compositional output, have now almost entirely fallen out of the repertory. However his chamber music is experiencing a justifiably wide resurgence of interest.

The quartets, Op. 40, were written around 1813 when Danzi had just been appointed Kapellmeister at Karlsruhe and had begun teaching composition at the newly founded Institute of Art; an intensely busy and fruitful period of his life. Playing and hearing the music never ceases to surprise and please. Danzi’s dramatic flair is ever apparent, with his mastery of setting atmosphere and creating a sense of expectation. The melodies are distinctively fresh and cantabile, born along with buoyant momentum by dance-like rhythmic figures. Their often folk tune-like simplicity is given added piquancy by the many adventurous turns in the harmony. Danzi’s instrumental writing is highly idiomatic but at the same time he attains an equality and a true blending of voices, which is one of the most satisfying aspects of performing chamber music of this quality.

In the successful combination of a firmly classical compositional structure, assimilated from his years in Mannheim, with a more modern romantic language, Danzi’s music is often reminiscent of Franz Schubert’s. Thus Schubert’s Allegro for string trio makes a telling and illuminating partner to the two Quartets on this programme. With the great Viennese composer Danzi shares many of the same elements of unfettered lyricism, atmospheric shades of light and dark, the same wistful alternations between lightheartedness and introspection, and, dare I say it, moments of true profundity.