String Quartet No.5 in c minor, Op.80
Antonio Bazzini (1818-1897) is that rare example of a complete musician. A concert virtuoso who at the height of his career in the mid 19th century was regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, violinist before the public. Yet, he gave up his concert career to devote himself to composing, teaching and above to restoring the instrumental tradition, then in decline, in his native Italy. For several decades Bazzini, who was a fine conductor, devoted himself introducing the masterpieces of the Austrian and German repertoire to Italian audiences.
Sadly, today Bazzini is only remembered as the composer of the fiendishly difficult encore piece, Ronde des Lutins (Dance of the Goblins). Yet, in his time, Bazzini's chamber music and his operas were greatly esteemed. It was Paganini, the foremost virtuoso of his time, who encouraged the the young Bazzini to follow in his footsteps. Although he wrote a number of successful operas and greatly influenced Puccini, Bazzini's six string quartets were considered his finest works. The Fifth Quartet is his last published quartet. It dates from 1892. Wilhelm Altmann, perhaps the most respected chamber music critic of the 20th century, discussing the Fifth Quartet in his Handbuch für Streichquartettspieler (Handbook for String Quartet Players), describes it as follows:
It is well-crafted with outstanding quartet style and above all good to play. The first movement, Allegro appassionato is unusual in that the second theme is of greater interest than the opening subject. The lovely second movement, Andante, is a beautiful song without words complete with a gorgeous second theme. The very Italian Intermezzo which follows has considerable charm whilst the finale, Allegro agitato, is quite effective.
We are pleased to present this fine work which has been unavailable for more than a century. It deserves to be heard in concert and will be welcomed by both amateurs and professionals.