Sextet in F Major, Ben. 261
For 2 Violins, 2 Violas, Cello and Bass
"Pleyel's String Sextet in F Major begins with an Allegro shimmering with colorful textures, followed by a Cantabile which will touch even the most insensitive of hearts with its exceedingly pleasing melodies. Then comes a Minuet with Trio and a Rondo with which the Sextet closes."---The critic writing for the November 1791 issue of the prestigious Musikalische Korrespondenz.
Pleyel's String Sextet in F Major dates from 1791. It was brought out by the publisher Andre as his Op.37. The date of the composition is significant because Pleyel, a student of Haydn, composed in the so called Viennese classical style pioneered by Haydn and Mozart and up until 1789 not in the concertante style founded in Paris still favored by French composers. When he was appointed Kapellmeister of the Cathedral in Strasbourg, he was widely regarded by French revolutionaries with suspicion because he was an Austrian. It is said that he only escaped the guillotine by quickly writing patriotic Jacobin works and abandoning the style of Viennese composers of which he had been considered one of the leading advocates. He adopted the concertante style of the French and his Sextet, an interesting work on several counts, reflects this fact. The only string sextets written before this one were those of Boccherini composed some 20 years before. They were for 2 violins, 2 violas and 2 cellos. Pleyel's is the first which substituted a bass for the second cello, and one of the very few in this style. The work achieved considerable popularity and was often performed up until the mid 19th century when tastes changed. From time to time, other editions appeared.
Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831) was born in the Austrian town of Ruppersthal. He began is studies with Jan Baptist Vanhal and then with Haydn, who, along with Mozart, considered Pleyel extraordinarily talented. Mozart is said to have called Pleyel the "next Haydn" and Haydn saw to it that his star pupil's works, primarily chamber music, were published. Pleyel's reputation quickly spread and he obtained the position of Kapellmeister (Music Director) at one of Hungary's leading courts. Later he moved to Strasbourg where he worked with Franz Xaver Richter and settled there. During the French Revolution, he moved to London but later returned to France and became a French citizen. In 1795, he founded a publishing firm which bore his name. It became one of the most important in France, publishing the works of Beethoven, Hummel, Boccherini, Onslow, Clementi, Dussek and many others. In addition he founded a famous piano manufacturing company which also bears his name. Pleyel and his music were quite famous during his lifetime. In England, for a time, his music was more popular than that of Haydn.
This Sextet is not only historically important, but strong enough to justify concert performance. Each of the voices is given solos and a chance to share in the presentation of the melodies which are as the critic for the Musikalische Korrespondenz wrote, quite compelling. Our new edition is based on the original 1791 Andre edition.