DANZI: Bassoon Concertos (Albrecht Holder/ New Brandenburg Philharmonic Orchestra/ Nicolas Pasquet) (Naxos: 8.554273)
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In Danzi's time Europe enjoyed a flourishing musical culture.
Artistically inclined members of the nobility supported opera and orchestraland chamber music in their houses and summer residences. Important composers ofthe period were engaged as directors of court music and those who took partwere often well known and widely travelled artists. The court musicalestablishment in Mannheim, for example, had so many prominent musicians thatCharles Burney in his journal of a tour that had taken him there could maintainthat "...there are more solo players, and good composers in this, thanperhaps in any other orchestra in Europe; it is an army of generals, equally toplan a battle, as to fight it." Franz Danzi was virtually born into thisarmy on 15th May 1763, since his Italian father Innocenz had been employed as acellist in the court orchestra of the Elector Karl Theodor from 1754. FranzDanzi's musical talents were soon recognised and so developed by his father, whotaught him to play the keyboard and cello and to sing, that at the age offifteen he was able to join the orchestra. His sister Franziska was employed asa singer in the court establishment from 1770.
Danzi also studied composition successfully with the famous Abbe Voglerand already in 1780 his first opera Azakia was performed. With hismusical studies he also continued his general education and learnt languages.
This enabled him later to provide musical and literary contributions to theMunich cultural publication Aurora and to the Leipzig AllgemeineMusikalische Zeitung. Friedrich Rochlitz, editor of the latter publicationfrom 1798, wrote of Danzi's years at Mannheim that he had enjoyed goodschooling there, both in general knowledge and in music, adding that he washard-working and quiet, well-mannered and respectable; he had shown an earlygift for composition, was no great virtuoso, but played accurately and well;his chief strength was in vocal music and when he restricted himself to this inhis compositions he was outstanding.
In 1777 the Elector Karl Theodor, as heir to Joseph Maximilian III, wasobliged to move his residence to Munich. 32 of the Mannheim musicians,including Innocenz Danzi, followed a year later and were integrated into theMunich court musical establishment. Franz Danzi stayed in Mannheim with therest of the orchestra and the theatre and served both as cellist and asrepetiteur until the retirement of his father in 1783, when he took thelatter's place in Munich. Meanwhile he had composed three operas, the first ofwhich was Die Mitternactsstunde ('The Midnight Hour'). All three werelater performed in Munich.
In 1790 Danzi's marriage to the singer Margarethe Marchand, a pupil ofLeopold Mozart, who had served also in Mannheim from 1777, brought afundamental change in his life. In 1791 he took leave from Munich and set outwith his wife on concert-tours, ending with his appointment in Prague as Kapellmeisterof the Guardasoni Opera Company. There followed appointments in Venice andin Florence, both with considerable success.
After five years of touring, which had weakened his wife's health, hesought a secure position in Munich and in 1798 became Vice-Kapellmeister atthe Bavarian court, with duties at the court opera and with the church music ofthe court. The death of his wife in 1800 and his lack of the chance ofbettering his situation led him in 1807 to the decision to take the position ofCourt Kapellmeister to King Friedrich Wilhelm Karl of W??rttemberg, Itwas at this time that he met Ludwig Spohr who, in his memoirs, wrote of Danzias in general a kind man to whom he felt himself drawn, since he had the samerespect for Mozart as inspired Spohr himself; he still had in his possession asa precious souvenir of that time a duet arrangement of Mozart's Symphony inG minor, made by Danzi and written out in his own hand.
It was during his time in Stuttgart that Danzi's friendship with CarlMaria von Weber began. He performed the latter's opera Abu Hassan andgave him moral and practical support. Weber's musical correspondence with Danzidemonstrates his respect for his older friend. On 15th June 1806 a comicalrecitative for The Honourable Herr Kapellmeister Danzi or, in June 1811,"My dear Herr Kapellmeister, the undersigned (by name Weber) and aHerr Barmann, yesterday looked everywhere for you, to see you, to speak to you,to hear you..."
In 1812, shortly after his appointment as composition teacher andinspector of the newly established Art Institute in Waisenhaus, Danzi movedagain, now to the court at Karlsruhe. Thanks to his experience he succeeded inraising the standard of the orchestra and, with his ability in opera, performedthere the great works of Mozart, Beethoven, Cherubini and, above all, Weber. Hedied in 1826.
Danzi's compositions include operas, Singspiel, Italian stage-works forhis wife and his sister, oratorios, Masses, choruses, symphonies, concertanteworks, concertos, string quartets, wind quintets, quartets with soloinstruments, songs, vocal exercises, sonatas, piano duet sonatas and otherworks, all for practical use and performed and in many cases published in hislifetime.
When the clarinettist Romeo Orsi appeared in Vienna in 1866, the criticHanslick wrote: "Get back in the orchestra! That is the place in which weknow how to value the players of clarinet, oboe and bassoon; we have had enoughof it, with these artists travelling round in hordes." By then the age ofwind virtuosi had been over for some forty years. The heyday of F??rstenau, Doppler,Boehm, Lebrun, Besozzi, Hermstaedt, Barmann, Ritter, Brandl, Braun, Romberg,Pfeiffer, Eichner and Stich was at the beginning of the century. These were theplayers that Danzi had or that he conducted in his orchestras, who had inspiredhim to write various concertante works and concertos. In the programme registerof the Gewandhaus Orchestra it can be seen that the best year for windsoloists, at least in Leipzig, was 1798. In nine concerts, wind-players on sixoccasions were soloists, among them the bassoonist Berwald in a concerto byGrenser.
Nevertheless, improvements to the piano and string instruments, the mostfavoured instruments of the romantic sound-palette, and the appearance offascinating virtuosi such as Franz Liszt and Nicol?? Paganini, led to theneglect of wind soloists and from about 1830 they largely disappeared fromconcert programmes. This again did not seem right to Hanslick and he expressedhimself as follows on the matter: "The terrible dominance of the piano,though the most independent, yet also the most insistent instrument, sets ustoday positively against the dethroned wind instruments."
Today wind soloists, favoured through the media, are again with us, assoloists, in chamber music, in wind-ensemble music and in research into theliterature of the great classical period of such instruments. When I was astudent, up to 1958, Danzi was only known as the composer of wind quintets.
Today almost all his works for wind, concertos, concertante music, windsextets, bassoon quartets, with his string trios and duo sonatas with piano,have been newly edited or performed. The work of this composer, who is to beseen as an important link between classical and romantic, long forgotten as aso-called Kleinmeister, has again been brought to the attention of thepublic and his cultural legacy preserved. The present compact disc, therefore,is not a mere record of the past but an example of living music that,