Nonet in E flat Major, Op.38
For Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn & Bassoon
"Louise Farrenc's Nonet in E flat Major, Op.38 for flute, oboe, B flat clarinet, E flat horn, bassoon, string trio and bass dates from 1849. It is ironic that of all her chamber music, the work which achieved the most popular success was a piece without piano of which she was a virtuoso. It was this Nonet which made whatever name she had as a composer during her lifetime. It may, in part, have been due to the tremendous popularity of the young and dashing Joseph Joachim—one of Europe’s leading violinists, for it was Joachim who, in 1850, participated in the public premiere of the Nonet in front of a large audience. The Nonet shows the influence of her teacher Anton Reicha. The first of its four movements, Adagio—Allegro, begins with a majestic introduction. The beautiful opening theme of the Allegro is full of potential and the second subject is also very good. The part writing is uniformly good with excellent integration of the strings and winds. This is tasteful, good-natured and genial music. The second movement, Andante con variazione, begins with a very attractive theme introduced by the violin. The first variation features the oboe by itself in a lyrical, syncopated and serene episode. The viola joins in toward the end and the mixed timbre of the two instruments is exquisite. In the second variation, the violin is given an etude like series of runs. The viola, flute and clarinet are brought in for cameo appearances. Then comes the bassoon who plays primus inter pares within a woodwind quintet. The horn is given a turn in the fourth variation, charmingly accompanied by a series of triplets in the minor by the strings. All participate in the Allegretto coda, even the bass is suddenly exposed to the light of day for a brief second. This is an absolutely first rate movement which serves to showcase Farrenc’s compositional skills. The third movement, Scherzo vivace begins with great originality as the strings quietly strum the exciting opening theme, which sounds of the chase. The winds restate it and the music then takes off. It is in the tradition of grand and exciting scherzi, complete with wonderful chromatic passages. The second theme, actually more of a long trio section, is first played by the winds in their upper registers, a dreamy, children’s nursery song. When the strings briefly take over, the melody becomes very lyrical. Again we have a little gem. Everything is perfect: the thematic material and the part writing. It shows great creativity and verve. The finale, Adagio-Allegro, begins with an introduction which creates a sense of expectation, especially as the oboe’s cadenza brings it to an end and horn sounds a four measure “call to attention”. The opening theme to the allegro is then introduced by the violin. It is at once beautiful and replete with forward motion. This work, in my opinion, it is unquestionably in the front rank of nonets."---R.H.R. Silvertrust writing in The Chamber Music Journal
Louise Farrenc (1804-1875) enjoyed a considerable reputation during her own lifetime as both a performer and a teacher. Her chamber music is on a par with most of her well-known male contemporaries, although unfortunately these works never achieved the renown they deserved and fell into oblivion shortly after her death. As a young girl, Farrenc, a piano prodigy, was fortunate in studying with such great masters as Ignaz Moscheles, Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Anton Reicha.
Even though this is a masterwork, we as musicians do not want to pay $150 and up for any piece of music. The reason that so many other editions have very expensive price tags is that they are new editions and it is extremely expensive to make a new edition. Most European publishers receive government subsidies and those who do not almost never recover the cost of making the edition except by charging a big price and hoping that libraries and music schools will buy it. But musicians will not. We, too, are musicians and after hunting for an nice old edition for many years, we found one from the late 19th century. It was easy to read but had bad page turns and no rehearsal numbers. Well, we have fixed these problems and are able to offer this wonderful work at a very affordable price.
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