Franz Danzi (1763-1826)
Wind Quintet in E flat major, opus 67 no. 3

I - Larghetto - Allegro moderato; II - Andante moderato; III - Minuetto: Allegro; IV - Allegretto

The son of a professional cellist, Franz Danzi initially followed in his father's footsteps, playing in the Mannheim Orchestra from the age of 15, and later working at the Munich Court. He subsequently enjoyed a fruitful career as a theatre Kapellmeister, first at Munich (1798), then at Stuttgart (1807), and ultimately at Karlsruhe (1812), where he remained until his death. Owing to his profession, the majority of Danzi's compositions are stage works, but his output for a variety of chamber ensembles was also prolific, and it is these works that have enjoyed the most success in the modern revival of his music.

Danzi's contribution to the wind quintet, still a strikingly novel medium at the time, is significant, especially as he was one of the first composers outside France to write for this combination. His earliest three wind quintets, the op. 56 set, were dedicated to Antoine Reicha, the Parisian "father of the wind quintet". Then followed the six quintets which comprise opp. 67 and 68, probably the last of Danzi's chamber works, composed at Offenbach during the final few years of his life. Danzi also wrote three quintets for piano and wind instruments (opp. 41, 53 and 54).

The work being performed tonight, the last quintet of the Op. 67 set, shows both French and Viennese influences. The opening movement is by far the most substantial, and is introduced by a Larghetto section characterized by falling scales. The ensuing Allegro moderato contrasts two subjects in the upper instruments, accompanied by some quirky semiquaver figurations, notably in bassoon. At the end of the movement, following the recapitulation of the main themes, there is even a brief return to the music of the Larghetto.

The Andante moderato has the texture of a song, with the lower instruments accompanying a haunting flute melody, which returns to close the movement following a more imitative middle section involving all instruments in turn. The third movement makes much use of a repeated note figuration - first in all parts, then in horn only - and incorporates a trio section which uses the upper three instruments predominantly. Though entitled 'Minuetto', its fast tempo betrays that it is actually an innocent Scherzo (akin to those of early Beethoven). The finale is an extensive Rondo, whose structure accommodates the recurrence of several themes, notably the lilting oboe melody (continued by flute in dialogue) of its opening. CMW

© The Arethusa Ensemble