There’s Nothing Wrong with Entertainment!


Texture. © Charles Thibo

Almost three years have passed since I introduced the Baroque composer Franz Xaver Richter to the readers of the blog and I am awfully sorry for not having followed up on the man and his delightful music. As I wrote in a post on Richter’s Seven Quartets (op. 5), his most remarkable contributions to music  are his works for chamber music and his liturgical compositions. However, in the early phase of his career, he composed no less than 70 symphonic works, and today’s post will be about his Sinfonia in B-flat Major (VB 59), recorded by Capricornus Consort Basel.

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Delicate trios and revolutionary hymns

Pleyel easily colors a dull autumn day. © Charles Thibo

Here is what it takes: a violin, a cello and a harpsichord. Furthermore an Austrian composer, music publisher and founder of a piano factory. Add some teaching by Joseph Haydn, an internship under Franz Xaver Richter (see an earlier post of mine) at the Cathedral of Strasbourg. Ignaz Joseph Pleyel has done it all. In 1791 he wrote a beautiful trio for keyboard in C, Ben. 441. In 2011, the Trio 1790 and Jennifer Morsches released an album with this works and it is worth listening to it.

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Through spring with a dancing clarinet

The clarinet - a spring instrument? © Charles Thibo
The clarinet – a spring instrument? © Charles Thibo

The clarinet,  ah, the clarinet! What a beautiful instrument if mastered by its owner! A few months back, I presented Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A major, KV 622, but others have used this beautiful instrument. In chamber music for example. Carl Stamitz for example. The son of Johannes Stamitz, member of the Mannheim School*. In 1774, Carl Stamitz composed a set of six clarinet quartets (op. 14) and the one written in D major, a beautiful little piece, reminds me of a joyful walk in the forest with birds shining everywhere and greeting spring. It is full of joy and optimism, peace and hope. I can almost see the nymphs dancing to the gaily tunes.

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Inventing the String Quartet in the 18th Century

Richter's string quartets are lovely entertaining pieces. © Charles Thibo
Richter’s string quartets are lovely entertaining pieces. © Charles Thibo

Elegance – that’s the first word coming to my mind when I listen to Franz Xaver Richter’s Seven Quartets Op. 5. Lightness is another immediate association with this music. It’s entertaining in the best way, not too intellectual, but not trivial either. And the quartets have a few surprises, like the Spanish flavor of the second movement of Quartet No. 5 in G major, where Richter uses castanets. Intrigued? Try the recording of the Casal Quartett.  It will be well-spent money. The Swiss ensemble used period instruments for the recording and was nominated for the Grammy Awards last year…

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