Carl Gottlieb Reissiger
String Quartet No.2 in b minor, Op.111 No.2
Reissiger's String Quartet No.2 in b minor was the second of a set of three, published in 1837 as his Op.111. They were dedicated to his friend Antonio Rolla, concertmaster of the court orchestra in Dresden and son of the famous Italian composer Alessandro Rolla. Schumann is said to have remarked after hearing the Op.111 performed that while they broke no new ground, showing as they did the influence of Mozart, Beethoven, Spohr and Onslow, nonetheless, because of the appealing melodic material, would be welcomed by amateur quarteters. The first movement begins with a substantial, slow Beethovian introduction, Andante con passione which leads to a lively main section Allegro moderato ma appassionato. The second movement, Andante con moto e fantastico, contrary to Schumannís opinion, is quite original. The music is sad and rather sedate but continually interrupted without warning by bursts of energetic passion of rhythmic power. The third movement, a fleet Scherzo, begins in canonic form continues on this way. The finale, Allegro brillante ma non troppo, is a toe-tapping rondo. Most historical evidence suggests that Reissiger would almost certainly have heard and intended for this quartet to be played on modern instruments that sound like those of today, and which were in use well before 1837. Unfortunately, our soundbites come from a performance made on pre-modern instruments, which is not only historically anachronistic but also makes the music sound duller and far less exciting than it really is.
Carl Gottlieb Reissiger (1798-1859) was born in the Prussian town of Belzig. He originally attended the famous Thomasschule in Leipzig as his father intended him to be a priest, however, his extraordinary musical talent was recognized and he was encouraged to pursue a musical career. His initial studies were with Johann Schlicht, Bach's fifth successor as Cantor of the Thomasschule. Subsequently, he went to Vienna and studied with Salieri. An early opera attracted Carl Maria von Weber's attention and Reissiger went to Dresden, eventually succeeding Weber as Music Director of the Dresden Court Orchestra, a post he held until his death. A leading conductor of German opera, Wagner worked under Reissiger for nearly a decade. Reissiger premiered Wagner's first opera. A prolific composer, as most composers of that time were, he penned works in virtually every genre. His works show the influence of the Viennese masters, in particular Schubert and Beethoven.
Born a year after Schubert and a decade before Mendelssohn and Schumann, Reissiger's music is an excellent example of the early Romantic movement and this quartet would certainly be appreciated by amateurs.