Franz Xaver Gebel
String Quintet No.1 in e minor, Op.20
For 2 Violins, Viola & 2 Cellos
Franz Xaver Gebel (1787-1843) was born in the Silesian town of Furstenau not far from the provincial capital of Breslau. Not a great deal is known about his life prior to his emigration to Moscow in 1817, where he spent the rest of his life. It is known, however, that prior to this, he had studied composition with the Abbe Vogler and Johann Albrechtsberger in Vienna, It is also known that he served as a director of prominent theaters in Vienna and Lemberg before to departing for Moscow, where he was lured by the promise of a high paying job. By this time, he had already composed several operas, some string quartets and works for winds.
In Moscow, Gebel worked as a teacher as well as an orchestra director. Among his many students was Nicolai Rubinstein. During his Moscow years, he composed four symphonies, operas, many songs, several string quartets and eight string quintets, all for two violins, viola and two cellos. In Russia, he made a considerable name for himself and his works were respected and often performed. Borodin praised and was particularly fond of the string quintets, often playing the second cello parts. Glinka also praised Gebelís chamber music as did the famous violinist Heinrich Ernst.
The quintets were thought to be composed between 1830 and 1842. The main theme to the opening movement, Allegro, is characterized by an unusual two measure rhythmic phrase before the lyrical part of the melody is given out. Gebel follows this technique throughout the movement, interspersing powerful rhythmic figures between lovely long-lined melodies. The second movement, a thrusting and energetic Scherzo, allegro molto, is followed by a beautifully contrasting trio section in which the first cello gives out the lovely theme high in its tenor register. The slow movement, Adagio ma non troppo, is very different in mood from the preceding two movements. Calm and reflective, it reminds one of the slow movements found in Beethoven's Op.18 string quartets, with Gebel had introduced to musical audiences in Moscow. The finale, Allegro agitato, features a struggle between two contrasting themes. The first quite powerful and almost harsh, the second, lyrical with hints of destiny.
The string quintets were published C.L. Lehnhold in Moscow and Tobias Haslinger in Vienna in 1842. Our edition is based on the original by Lehnhold, but we have added rehearsal numbers and corrected errors.
This is, without question, a fine addition to the repertoire of quintets for two cellos and will make an excellent selection for groups planning an evening of such music.