Monday 21 November 2016

Boxwood and Brass: Music for a Prussian Salon - Franz Tausch in context

Boxwood and Brass - Music for a Prussian Salon - Franz Tausch
Music for a Prussian salon Franz Tausch, Johann Stamitz, Bernhard Henrik Crusell, Heinrich Baermann; Resonus
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Nov 16 2016
Star rating: 4.5

Franz Tausch in context, illuminating the music and influence of the 18th century clarinettist

Boxwood and Brass is an ensemble which specialises in performing harmoniemusik from late 18th and early 19th century. The players, Emily Worthington (clarinet), Fiona Mitchell (clarinet), Anneke Scott (horn) (see my recent interview with Anneke Scott), Kate Goldsmith (horn), and Robert Percival (bassoon) all perform on period instruments. This disc on Resonus Classics, Music for a Prussian Salon, is the group's first disc and they perform music by Franz Tausch, Johann Stamitz, Bernhard Henrik Crusell and Heinrich Baerman, names which do not really resonate nowadays but whose music certainly proves worth reviving.

The key figure in the programme is the clarinettist Franz Tausch (1762-1817) who, by the end of the 18th century, was established in Berlin as an important clarinettist and teacher, as well as being a composer. On the disc we hear his XIII Pieces en Quatuor for two clarinets, horn and bassoon. Tausch studied with his father, who was a clarinettist in the Mannheim Court Orchestra where the composer Johann Stamitz worked (along with his sons Carl and Anton). Thus Johann Stamitz's Three Quartets for clarinets and horns represent the older generation's influence on Tausch. Whilst Bernard Henrik Crusell's Concert trio and the Adagio from Heinrich Baermann's Quintet op.23 represent Tausch's influence on the subsequent generation, as both Crusell and Baermann were Tausch's pupils.

Boxwood and Brass
Boxwood and Brass
After studies with Tausch, Crusell returned to his native Sweden where his Concert Trio was probably written for himself and the other exceptional musicians from his circle. Baerman's playing would go on to inspire Weber's Clarinet Concerto and the Adagio from Baermann's Quintet for Clarinet and Strings has been arranged for the ensemble by Robert Percival.

Tausch's XIII Pieces en Quatuor were published in Paris in 1812, though many movements may have been written earlier. Varied and delightful, these explore all the possibilities of the four instruments (two clarinets, horn and bassoon). Tausch uses a variety of different styles, and many show a not inconsiderable compositional talent. Johann Stamitz's quartet for two clarinets and two horns shows a more classical feel, a with an interesting Mozartian cast to the second movement and a toe-tapping closing Allegro. The Adagio from Baermann's Quintet is a beautiful, rather Weber-ish movement.

Crusell's Concert trio certainly pushes the boundaries of the instruments, with three equally virtuosic parts including short cadenzas for each instrument and the texture is definitely Romantic, With such a bravura piece it is worth bearing in mind the relatively primitive technology of the instruments, a hand-stopped horn and clarinet and bassoon with far fewer keys than the modern instrument. but by contrast with the easy fluency of the modern instruments, we get a lovely range of character and colour.

Throughout this enjoyable disc I kept coming back to the wide range of colours which the instruments bring to the music and the playing from Boxwood and Brass transcends any technological limitation to make a finely satisfying disc which illuminates a corner of musical history which is sometimes forgotten.
Franz Tausch (1762-1817) - XIII Pieces en Quatuor, Op.22
Johann Stamitz (1717-1757) - Three Quartets for clarinets and horns
Bernhard Henrik Crusell (1775-1838) - Concert Trio for clarinet, horn and bassoon
Heinrich Baermann (1784-1847), arr Robert Percival - Adagio from Quintet, Op.23
Boxwood and Brass - Emily Worthington (clarinet), Fiona Mitchell (clarinet), Robert Percival (bassoon), Anneke Scott (horn), Kate Goldsmith (horn)
Recorded Manna Oax Studio, Ludlow, 4-7 April 2016
RESONUS RES10177 1CD [72.53]
Available from Amazon.

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