Jean Xavier Lefèvre
Quartet No.4 in c minor for Clarinet, Violin, Viola & Cello
"The first thing which must be said about Jean Xavier Lefèvre's Clarinet Quartets is that they are a cut well above the standard of such works being composed at this time—1800. These are not mere vehicles for the clarinet, they are not quatours brillant. Yes, the clarinet assumes the role normally taken by the first violin, but the others, a la Haydn and Mozart, are given worthwhile and not unimportant parts. From these quartets, there is every reason to believe that Lefèvre was conversant with the developments made by the two Viennese composers. He, himself, was clear a master of form and harmony with a fine gift for melody. String players will also derive pleasure from playing these works—–Highly recommended."---The Chamber Music Journal.
Jean Xavier Lefèvre (1763-1829) was born in the Swiss town of Lausanne. He moved to Paris at an early age where he studied with the then famous clarinetist, Michel Yost. By 1791 Lefèvre was serving as first clarinetist at the Paris opera. His clarinet method published in 1802 became a best seller and he became a professor at the Paris Conservatory. He had many famous pupils, including Bernard Crusell. His clarinet concerti were often performed, at least during his lifetime. A fairly prolific composer, he appears to have written some 9 clarinet quartets not all of which have survived.
The writing of Quartet No.4 is a mix of concertante style and the newer emerging style pioneered by Haydn and Mozart. In the former one instrument is entrusted with the melody, which could if necessary stand alone, while the others only accompany. In the later, the melody does not always exist in one voice and often needs the others to make sense. As such we can hear that this is a transitional work. In the opening movement, Allegro moderato, to Quartet No.4 the clarinet introduces the long-lined main theme which is subsequently developed by the strings. Soon after the clarinet joins the mix. An Adagio serves as the second movement. A surprising, rather quick but short introductory phrase begins the work, before the the clarinet is given gorgeous, somewhat languid, cantabile theme. A traditional, Haydnesque Minuetto follows. The trio section, which features the violin and clarinet is a kind of country dance. The finale, Rondo poco allegretto, is a jaunty, dance-like romp.