ROMBERG: Flute Quintets Op. 41, Nos. 1- 3 (E & J/ Jan Cut/ Juraj Alexander/ Milan Telecky/ Viktor Simcisko/ Vladislav Brunner) (Naxos: 8.554765)
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Andreas Jakob Romberg(1767-1821)
Flute Quintets, Op. 41
Andreas Jakob Romberg was born at Vechta in 1767, a member of a largefamily of musicians from nearby M??nster. He studied with his father, theviolinist Gerhard Heinrich Romberg, and as a child, together with his cousin,the cellist and composer Bernhard Heinrich Romberg, accompanied their fatherson concert tours in Germany and France. In 1790, again with his cousin, hejoined the orchestra of the Archbishop-Elector in Bonn, where they were colleaguesof the young Beethoven. When the French army crossed the Rhine in 1793, theyescaped to Hamburg, where they joined the opera orchestra of the AckermannTheatre. By then Andreas Jakob had already won a reputation as a composer and,above all, as a violinist.
In 1795 the Rombergs embarked on an extended concert tour of Italy,returning, in 1796, to Vienna, as Italy was threatened by the French. In Viennathey met Beethoven again and he, after some apparent difference, collaboratedwith them in a concert, while Bernard Heinrich joined with Beethoven in thefirst performance in Vienna of the latter's Opus 5 Cello Sonatas. Haydnshowed considerable interest in Andreas Jakob's music, in particular his stringquartets that seemed in many ways a reflection of Haydn' s own style. On oneoccasion Haydn is reported to have helped distribute the parts for aperformance of a new string quartet which he allowed the audience to think washis, eventually, after due praise, revealing Andreas Jakob as the composer. Thelatter dedicated three string quartets to Haydn. The cultural bond with Viennawas crucial for Romberg's development as a composer and brought associationwith musicians of importance.
The Rombergs returned to Hamburg at the beginning of the new century andin 1801 visited Paris again. There the opera Don Mendoza, acollaboration between the cousins, failed and Andreas Jakob now returned toHamburg, while Bernhard Heinrich set out on a concert tour of Spain, beforejoining the staff of the Paris Conservatoire. In the following year he moved toBerlin, before resuming his career as a virtuoso. Andreas Jakob remained inHamburg during the difficult years of the French occupation of the city,eventually moving to Gotha, where he succeeded Louis Spohr as Hofkapellmeister.
Suffering from ill health and later poverty, he died in Gotha in 1821.
Romberg was prolific enough as a composer. In addition to eight operasand ten symphonies, he wrote dozens of chamber pieces, characteristic of acombination of early romantic and late classical style. In many ways he may beconsidered representative of the virtuoso style of his day, with lyricalmelodies, reflections of Sturm und Drang, the 'storm and stress' elementin music of the later eighteenth century, showing the influence of his greatcontemporaries.
Outstanding among Romberg's eight quintets is Opus 41, a set of threebrilliantly elaborated and expressively condensed four-movement compositions, areminder of Romberg's contemporary reputation as a remarkable violinist,although his friend Spohr, who referred to him as a cultivated and subtleartist, also found his actual playing cold and dry. Romberg's flute quintets,scored for flute, violin, two violas and cello, illustrate the freshness of hismusical language, with its use of dance movements and variations on well-knownmelodies. The Flute Quintets, Opus 41, are superb music, created as theclassical style began to turn towards the romantic.
The Quintet in E minor
starts with a movement in tripartite classical form, in which the firstsubject assumes considerable importance. A stately Minuet follows, withthe flute offering a sinuous melody in the first of the two contrasting Trios.
The strings open the slow movement, before the flute joins in the principaltheme, leading to the well-known strains of the English national anthem, amelody that enjoyed similar use in a number of German states. The last movementfinds room for a traditional display of counterpoint.
The second work hereincluded, the Quintet in D major follows a similar pattern, a repeatedexposition in the first movement leading to a central development, before theexpected recapitulation. The second movement Minuet has corresponding Triosin contrast, and the slow movement Romanza is again introduced bythe strings, the theme varied on the entry of the flute with the melody,against a running accompaniment. The quintet ends with a lively Rondo.
In the Quintet in Fmajor the flute introduces an operatic melody in the style of theperiod, admitting, as it is developed, a measure of counterpoint andpassage-work for the flute. The slow movement, placed second, offers a singingmelody in a finely crafted texture, to be followed by a third movement Minuetwith something of Haydn about it. This is capped by a short Vivace inconclusion.
based on notes by EgonKrak