Maximillian von Leidesdorf
Quintet in E flat Major, Op.66
For Violin, Cello, Clarinet, Bassoon & Piano
Maximillian von Leidesdorf (1787-1840) was born in Vienna and studied with Salieri and Albrechtsberger. He was active in Vienna until 1827 when he left for Florence where he remained until his death. In both cities, he enjoyed a career as a composer, concert pianist and teacher. As a pianist, he is widely regarded as a forerunner to Czerny. His compositions were popular during his lifetime and circulated throughout Europe. He was friendly with Schubert and his publishing firm, Sauer & Leidesdorf (later acquired by Diabelli) was responsible for publishing many of Schubert’s works when no one else would.
Leidesdorf’s Quintet in E flat Major for Violin, Cello, Clarinet, Bassoon and Piano was published in 1820 and is an excellent example of the amalgam of late classical and early romantic era writing. It is an important work for several reasons, not least for its colorful instrumentation—of which few if any prior examples exist—as well as for its fresh thematic material. It is a substantial work in four movements. The opening movement, Allegro non troppo, has a lovely, lyrical Adagio introduction which builds quietly builds tension. The Allegro non troppo opens with the clarinet giving out the gentle, first theme but no development follows. Rather the violin and then piano immediately bring forth the appealing main theme. The piano writing is beautifully integrated into the whole with the style in the tradition of Mozart and Hummel. The instruments are each given opportunities to bring forth the melodic material. The second movement, Adagio, begins with a series of loud chords before an introductory build up to the singing main theme, with its vague echoes of a Rossini aria, which is first presented by the cello. This introductory section appears several times and is somewhat reminiscent of the opening introductory bars. The movement closes with several tension building, Schubertian tremolo passages. Next comes a fleet Scherzo, Prestissimo, in which there is not a moment’s opportunity to rest as the music races forward. The trio section is only slightly slower but nonetheless makes a fine contrast. The finale, Allegretto, is a bumptious, toe-tapping, rondo.
Of its kind, this is an outstanding work. After years of searching, we finally obtained a copy of the first and only edition. It is nearly 200 years old and full of all sorts of water marks, smudges, and the detritus of age. As was then common, the piano part is simply the piano part. and the work was without rehearsal letters. In order to rescue this masterwork from oblivion, we have spent many hours digitally cleaning it and adding rehearsal letters. The result is a serviceable performance edition of the sort Schubert or Beethoven would have played off of. But, it is not pristine like a newly published work nor the equal in quality of a modern edition. The price, less than our generally very low prices, reflects this fact.