Septet No.1 in c minor, Op.26
For Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass, Oboe, Horn and Piano
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 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, 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.
We have reprinted the original 1842 edition but have added rehearsal numbers. This is a fine work deserving of both concert performance and a place on the stands of amateurs.