String Quintet for 2 Violins, 2 Violas & Cello
Donizetti (1797-1848) was born in Bergamo, Italy of humble origins. His father was an assistant at the village pawnshop. In 1806, at the age of 9, he was able to attend a charitable school and there met the then famous composer, Simone Mayr, who became his mentor and lifelong friend. Donizetti is well-known, of course, as a composer for the opera. However, many will be surprised to learn that he did write a fair amount of chamber music, including 18 string quartets, some string quintets, piano trios, and an octet for winds and strings along with several other instrumental works.
Much of Donizetti’s chamber music dates from his youth when he still lived in Bergamo. While still a conservatory student, he was often engaged to play string quartets or quintets in the homes of amateurs. As his compositional skills developed and perhaps at the behest of Mayr, he began to write for the various groups with whom he played. It is believed that the movements which make up this “string quintet” were composed sometime between 1815 and 1820.
Donizetti wrote several movements for string quintet but there is no actual completed three or four movement work in existence. The best known of these quintet movements are the Larghetto affetuoso for String Quartet and Bass and an Allegro for 2 Violins, 2 Violas and Cello both of which have been published years ago. We believe that both of these movements are quite charming and worthwhile and therefore have combined them to create a short, delightful string quintet. To do this, in the Larghetto, we have created a Viola II part in lieu of the original bass part. However, it is set in its lower register and therefore the work remains tonally quite effective.
We are pleased to present this work which we hope will preserve a valuable contribution by Donizetti. Our edition, edited by R.H.R. Silvertrust, is based on manuscript copies from various libraries in Italy and Austria.