The Chamber Music News
A Blog About Chamber Music
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January / February 2017
Alexander Fesca's Piano Septets
Alexander Ernst Fesca (1820-1849) was born in the German city of Karlsruhe where his father Friedrich Ernst Fesca, also a composer, was serving as music director of the Ducal Court Orchestra of Baden. Fesca received his first lessons from his father and was considered a prodigy on the piano. He attended the Prussian Royal Conservatory in Berlin where he graduated with a degree in composition at the young age of 14 after which he enjoyed a career as a pianist and music director. Though he did not live very long, he composed a considerable amount of music. His chamber music includes six piano trios, two piano quartets and two septets for piano, winds and strings.
His Septet No.1 in c minor, Op.26 dates from 1842. While Beethovenís Op.20 Septet for strings and winds became a model, as regards to instrumentation, for several composers who tried their hands at such works. But there were few examples of piano septets and none which was to serve as a model for any other composer. Hence the instrumentation varied from composer to composer. The only notable examples of piano septets composed before Fescaís were those of Ferdinand Ries, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Friedrich Kalkbrenner and Ignaz Moscheles. Those composers were well-enough known and their septets enjoyed a degree of popularity which makes it possible that Fesca might have been familiar with one or more of them, but it seems unlikely that they influenced him since none of their septets shared the same instrumentation as his: Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass, Oboe and Horn. This Septet is a substantial work and as was the custom entitled Grand Septuor. The opening movement, Allegro con spirito, begins with a powerful, unison statement of the main theme. It promises turbulence but more lyrical passages follow. At times, the piano is juxtaposed against the other six, now leading, now accompanying. At other times, it blends into as one of the group, and then sometimes it is given solo passages. The lovely second movement, Andante con moto, opens with a long, dreamy horn solo, to the soft accompaniment of the cello, bass and piano. Gradually the others join in. Next comes a fleet Scherzo, allegro vivo. The piano starts things off and then suddenly the rest join in. The music alternates between powerful thrusting episodes and softer and mysterious intermezzo-like passages. The treatment is quite fetching. The finale, Allegro con fuoco, also starts off unisono with a thumping introduction which is suddenly interrupted twice by a baroque sounding oboe recitative. Finally, the oboe gives forth a very long-lined theme which is rather relaxed. But then the piano jumps and the music turns frantic and hard driving.
His Septet No.2 in d minor, Op.28 was composed if not immediately, then shortly after No.1 and also dates from 1842. It bears many similarities with the first and it must be assumed that both septets were commissioned by the same individual. For a start, the instrumentation of each is identical. The pattern of the movements is the same and the titles of the first two movements are identical. Like the First Septet, the Second is substantial work and as was the custom also entitled Grand Septuor.
The opening movement, Allegro con spirito, begins with a march-like introduction presented in unison. After developing the material further, a second more lyrical subject is introduced by the oboe. Toward the end is an unusual recitativ for the cello and bass. The fetching main theme to the slow movement, Andante con moto, is entirely introduced by the cello in a lengthy solo over soft accompaniment. Eventually the others join in this dreamy, peaceful and pastoral idyll. The violoncello figures so prominently in this movement that one wonders if the commissioner was a cellist. Rather than a scherzo, as one might expect, Fesca inserts a minuet. This Tempo di Menuetto, is intentionally archaic, harking back not to Mozart, Haydn or the classical era but beyond to the time of Gossec with its formal, baroque style. Yet Fesca inserts several very imaginative ideas into this old form, including brief Rossini-esque episode in the trio section. In the finale, Allegro moderato, the piano brings forth the lilting main theme, full of chromatic digressions. When the others join to create a powerful impression the character of the music becomes much more dramatic before Fesca retraces his steps.
You can hear soundbites from each movement on our website and if you desire purchase the parts from Edition Silvertrust by clicking on the links above.
String Qts Dedicated to Haydn-Part 1---March 2012
String Qts Dedicated to Haydn-Part 2---April 2012
3 New Beethoven Quartets?---May 2012
Hermann Berens String Trios---June 2012
2nd Movement to Bruckner'.s Str Qt too hard---July 2012
Arriaga The Spanish Mozart---August 2012
Wikmanson]s String Quartets---September 2012
Dubois' Piano Trios---October 2012
Trios for Clarinet, Cello & Piano---Nov / Dec 2012
Bargiel Piano Trios---January / February 2013
John Antes String Trios---March / April 2013
Jan Levoslav Bella Chamber Music---May / June 2013
Cecile Chaminade Piano Trio---July / August 2013
Emil Sjogren Violin & Piano Works---Sept / Oct 2013
Anton Arensky's String Quartets---Nov / Dec 2013
Wolf-Ferrari's Piano Trios---January / February 2014
Wilhelm Kienzl's String Quartets---March / April 2014
Friedrich Kiel's Piano Quintets---May / June 2014
Giuseppe Martucci's Piano Trios---July / August 2014
Ignacy Dobrzynski's String Quintets---Sept / Oct 2014
Juliuz Zarbeski Piano Quintet---Nov / Dec 2014
Robert Fuchs-The String Serenades---March / April 2015
Friedrich Gernsheim's String Quartets---May / June 2015
Robert Kahn's Piano Trios---July / August 2015
J.M. Weber's Septet 'Aus Meinem Leben---Sept / Oct 2015
Heinrich von Herzogenberg's String Trios----Nov / Dec 2015
Eugen d'Albert's String Quartets---Jan / Feb 2016
Survey of Piano Piano Sextets---March / April 2016
Robert Volkman's Piano Trios---July / August 2016
Hugo Wolf Works for String Quartet--Nov / Dec 2016