String Quartet in E Flat Major, Op.5 No.1
Franz Krommer (1759-1831) 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 the U.S. According to contemporaries, he was regarded along with Haydn as the leading composer of string quartets and as a serious rival of Beethoven. Krommer was a Czech 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. There are more than 300 compositions which were at one time or another published, much of which is chamber music. Wilhelm Altmann, in his Handbook for String Quartet Players writes that "Krommer knew how to write for string instruments and as a result what he wrote sounds brilliant."
Krommer's life spanned the Mannheim, Vienna Classical and early Romantic periods and his music evolved over time. Op.5 No.1, composed in 1795, is a work from his early period. The two outer movements, the opening Allegro moderato and the Rondo finale, are written in concertante style, wherein one instrument will have a solo while the others play straight forward accompaniment rather than a complex harmony. In this quartet, Krommer gives each of the instruments fine solos with beautiful, fresh-sounding melodies. The overall effect is, as Altmann put it, brilliant. The middle movement, an Allegretto, is written in a more updated style which Haydn and Mozart had pioneered. It is a lovely theme and set of variations with a Hungarian flavor.
Our new edition is based on the 1796 Gombart edition published in Augsburg. Op.5 No.1 could well serve as the quintessential concertante quartet from the Vienna Classical period. You will be hard pressed to find a better one.