String Quartet in E flat Major, Op.9 No.6, Ben. 336
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. The leading critic of the time F.J. Fetis wrote,
"No composer ever created more of a craze than Pleyel. He enjoyed a universal reputation and dominated the field of instrumental music for more than twenty years. There was no amateur or professional musician who did not delight in his genius."
Op.9 No.6 is the last of a set of six Prussian Quartets dedicated to the cello-playing Prussian King, Friedrich Wilhelm II. It is thanks to him that we have Mozart's three Prussian Quartets K.575, 589 and 590 and also Haydn's six Op.50 Prussian Quartets. Pleyel trumped them and actually wrote 12 for the King. We know that they were extraordinarily popular, having been published simultaneously by several firms in Paris, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Mainz, Mannheim, and Vienna. They date from the mid 1780's. Op.9 No.6 is three movements--an opening Allegro, followed by a very short Menuetto which is developed by way of variations and a Presto finale. The treatment of the Menuetto is particularly interesting, one might say unique, in that it does not progress as a typical minuet but after the statement of the theme continues by way of several variations in which each voice is given lengthy solos. The writing combines the older concertante style with the emerging new style pioneered by Haydn.
Here is a work, which is not only historically important, but also original enough to justify concert performance. It would make a welcome replacement for the inevitable Haydn or Mozart on any program. Long out of print, we are very pleased to make it available again but in a modern edition.
Parts & Score: $31.95