Septet No.2 in d minor, Op.28
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.
When Fesca came to write his Piano Septets there was no one famous septet which would serve as a model. This was not the case for septets without piano—–Beethoven’s 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 Fesca’s 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 them shared the same instrumentation as his: Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass, Oboe and Horn. His Septet No.2 in d minor 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 is identical. Like the First Septet, the Second is substantial work and as was the custom 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.
We have reprinted the original 1842 edition but have added rehearsal numbers. This is another fine work deserving of both concert performance and a place on the stands of amateurs.