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Franz Krommer

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String Quartet in D Major, Op.18 No.1

“Despite the fact that so many of Krommer's String Quartets were treasured by amateurs and professionals alike during his lifetime and long afterward, today few have even heard of him and fewer yet have heard his string quartets. Unfortunately, there have been virtually no new editions of these works. However, whomever takes the trouble to get acquainted with them, will be amazed how appealing they are. Mostly written in concertante style, all of the instruments are given solos while the others accompany them. The first violin part, in particular always has charming passages with clever embellishments. And every violinist can learn something from Krommer, who himself was an excellent violinist. Certainly some of his quartets deserve to be revived and receive concert performance. Krommer knew how to write for string instruments and was often able to achieve some very brilliant effects.”---The famous chamber music critic Wilhelm Altmann, writing in his Handbook for String Quartet Players

 

Op.18 No.1 is the first of a set of three which were composed in the mid 1790’s and published by Artaria in Vienna in 1800 and Richault in Paris the following year. In making our new edition, we consulted both of these editions. The quartet opens with a series of double stop chords in all the voices before the lively main theme of the Allegro vivace is given free reign. The music flows along effortlessly. A very Haydnesque Menuetto follows. The third movement, Adagio, is a true gem, as fine as any to be found in Haydn. The finale is a bubbling Allegro.

 

Franz Krommer (1759-1831) was born in town of Kamnitz then part of the Habsburg Austrian Empire (today Kamenice in the Czech Republic) It had a mixed population of Germans and Czechs and though baptized František Vincenc Kramář by the time he was 15, Krommer began using the Germanized version of his name for the rest of his life, the name by which he beame known to the world. Krommer was one of the most successful composers in Vienna at the turn of the 18th Century. His reputation was attested to by the fact that his works were frequently republished throughout Germany, England, France, Italy, Scandinavia and even the United States. According to several contemporary sources he was regarded with Haydn as the leading composer of string quartets and as a serious rival of Beethoven. Krommer was a violinist of considerable ability who came to Vienna around 1785. For the following 10 years he held appointments at various aristocratic courts in Hungary. He returned to Vienna in 1795 where he remained until his death, holding various positions including that of Court Composer (Hofmusiker) to the Emperor, Franz I, an enthusiastic quartet player. He was the last composer to hold this august title and one of his duties was accompanying the Emperor on his various campaigns so that he could relax in the evenings playing quartets. There are more than 300 compositions which were at one time or another published, much of which is chamber music. He wrote more than 70 string quartets, 35 quintets, perhaps as many as 15 string trios, but also several works for winds and strings.

 

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