Franz Krommer and Johann Nepomuk Hummel: chamber music for bassoon & strings

With Ars Production
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Remarks

Franz Krommer’s wind music dates from a golden age of wind music composition, a time where profound sentiments, intellectual discourse, and delicacy of expression in instrumental music was not seen to be the sole domain of strings or piano. As all of Krommer’s superlative wind music, the quartets Op. 46 are highly instrumentally idiomatic and often virtuosic. They exploit the full three octave range of the period bassoon to dramatic effect, use a full palette of tonal colors and textures, and feature many different effects at which the bassoon excels; running staccato figures, wide intervallic leaps, as well as soaring tenor cantabile lines.

Notes:

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

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

Sample tracks:

1. Krommer: movt 2 (andante) of Quartet no. 1 in Bb major:


2. Krommer: movt 4 (rondo) of Quartet no.1 in Bb Major:


3. Hummel: movt 2 (Andantini grazioso) Trio in G Major for 2 violas & Cello:

Please note: These tracks are in MP3 format and are not the same superb quality as the SACD.


Review by: Malcolm Tattersall

Franz Krommer, Johann Nepomuk Hummel: Chamber Music for Bassoon and Strings
febuary, 2010

Jane Gower graduated from the Canberra School of Music in 1992 and promptly went to Holland for further study in period performance. She quickly established a career as a historical bassoon specialist, appearing with such top-flight ensembles as the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, The Academy of Ancient Music and La Petite Bande. Island emerges from that context: the string players, two Europeans and an American, all perform in a similar range of ensembles.
The period performance movement began with renaissance and baroque music but its insights have gradually been brought to bear on classical and romantic repertoire. It is fair to say that the differences between “period” and “modern” performance practice diminish along with the age of the music, but the predisposition for freshness, lightness and vitality is constant and, to this listener at least, always welcome.
Franz Krommer (1759-1831) was prominent among the large cohort of musicians (including Danzi, Wanhal, Stamitz, and Haydn) who supplied the Germanic courts with a continuous stream of agreeable music, ending his career as official court composer to the Emperor Franz I in Vienna. It was “a golden age of wind music, a time where profound sentiments, intellectual discourse, and delicacy of expression in instrumental music was not seen to be the sole domain of strings or piano,” to quote from Jane Gower’s excellent, if sometimes extravagantly enthusiastic, booklet notes.
Krommer’s two bassoon quartets were published in 1804 as his Op. 46. He makes the bassoonist more of a soloist than, for instance, Mozart did in his comparable works for woodwind and strings – which would make perfect sense if, as Gower suggests, the works were intended as showpieces for a touring virtuoso. The choice of viola rather than violin as the upper string voice allows the bassoon to sing freely over the top of its accompaniment and, incidentally, makes for an attractively mellow sound overall. Both quartets follow the standard fourrmovement classical sonata form, but the second, with its unexpected mooddswings, is noticeably more romantic than the first.
Gower is at pains to point out that the bassoon parts are significantly more difficult on a period instrument, such as the one she plays, than on a modern bassoon, but the listener would not otherwise know it; she spins a free-flowing melodic line wherever required and makes light of some showy passage-work. Her colleagues support her admirably and then make the most of the Hummel Trio in G for two violas and cello which returns us to the genial, slightly bucolic mood of the first Krommer quartet.
That mood is, in fact, the listener’s abiding impression of the disc: lovely performances of unassumingly cheerful music.