String Quartet in G Major, Op.23 No.5 "King of Prussia"--New Edition
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. The majority of Wranitzky’s quartets are set in the three-movement format of the Parisian quatour concertant. In these works he explored the emerging Romantic style with (for the time) daring harmonic progressions, theatrical gestures, and virtuoso display.
The Op.23 Quartets date from 1793 and were first published by André in Offenbach. They are a set of six which were written for the cello-playing King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm II and for this reason, the cello parts, like those in the quartets which Mozart and Haydn wrote for the King, are more prominent than was normal for that period. While Haydn and Mozart raised the cello to an almost equal voice within the quartet, they avoided giving it virtuoso solo passages. Wranitzky, however, perhaps because he never really abandoned the concertante style of composition, did in fact write such solos. Both in the Poco adagio and the concluding Rondo to Op.23 No.5, the cello has solo passages high in its tenor register which require the use of thumb position—a rarity at the time. Op.23 No.5 is in four movements and follows the general pattern Haydn had established: fast, slow, minuet and fast; in this case—Allegro, Poco adagio, Minuetto-Allegretto, and Rondo. While so many of Wranitzky’s quartets were rustic, folksy and quaint (a style for which he became well-known), the Op.23 were written on a grander scale. They exhibit great care in the skillful handling of the expressive themes which avoid the too deliberate use of folk melodies. Copies of the André edition, upon which ours is based, can still be found in the libraries of Prague, Paris, Basle, Vienna, and London among others.
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.”
We are pleased to reintroduce this work which has been out of print for roughly 200 years and feel confident that its freshness and originality will give great pleasure to chamber music lovers.
Score & Parts: $36.95