String Quartet in B flat Major, Op.15 No.3
Writing about Wranitzky's chamber music in the last part of the 19th century, the famous French critic and musicologist Fetis recalled:
“The music of Wranitzky was in fashion when it was new because of his natural melodies and brilliant style…I recall that, in my youth, his works held up very well in comparison with those of Haydn. Their premature abandonment of today has been for me a source of astonishment.”
And Wilhelm Altmann writing in his Handbook for String Quartet Players adds:
“Wranitzky's Op.15 String Quartets in no way deserve to be ignored or overlooked. In style, they are similar to the quartets of Haydn and Mozart and are very skillfully written. His ideas are fresh and pleasing and though his slow movements rarely plumb the depths of emotion they are nonetheless sensitive and appealingly written. In these quartets, each of the instruments is given generous solo passages. These Quartets deserve to be performed in concert."
Paul Wranitzky (1756-1808 Pavel Vranický in the Czech form) was born in the town Nová Ríše (then Neureisch) in Moravia. At age 20, like so many other Czech composers of that period, he moved to Vienna to seek out opportunities within the Austrian imperial capital. Wranitzky played a prominent role in the musical life of Vienna. He was on friendly terms and highly respected by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven who preferred him as the conductor of their new works. Wranitzky was, as so many of his contemporaries, a prolific composer. His chamber works number over 100. Although some scholars believe that Wranitzky studied with Haydn, there is no proof of this. But there can be no question that he studied and was influenced by Haydn’s quartets. Like Haydn, Wranitzky’s quartet writing went through many stages of development beginning with the pre-classical and evolving to the finished sonata form of the late Vienna Classics.
Op.15 No.3 is the third of a set of six dating from 1791. Most of Wranitzky's quartets follow a three movement pattern and the minuet is usually omitted but when present, it often takes the place of a faster finale. Op.15 No.3, however, is quite unusual in its construction. Formally, it is only in two movements, however, the second movement consists of two sections each of which appears twice and hence could be considered two movements combined into one. But in other ways, this work is very typical of Wranitzky's quartet style. The writing has a rustic, folksy and quaint quality with many original touches. It was a style for which he became well-known. The work begins with a stately Adagio introduction in which the first violin presides. It leads to an Allegro which is the main section. Here, the second violin introduces the main theme. Later both the viola and the cello get a chance to take over the thematic material. The second movement, Andante poco adagio, is a serenade in which the cello is given is given the chance to lead with a very lengthy solo. Neither Haydn nor Mozart were this adventurous in the their cello writing. The first violin eventually takes over but the cello returns later to finish off this section which leads without pause to an exciting Hungarian rondo. Copies of the original André edition, upon which ours is based, can still be found in the libraries of Prague, Paris, Basle, Vienna, and London among others.
Here is a work, not only suitable for amateurs, but as Altmann says, deserving of 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