February of 2013 marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of Bohemian composer Adalbert Gyrowetz (1763-1850). The string quartet form was central to Gyrowetz’s output as over sixty published works in the genre indicate, including sixteen that comprise his Opuses 1-3. This CPO release performed by the Pleyel Quartet Köln offers three of Gyrowetz’s quartets, which I’ve listened to and thoroughly enjoyed many times during the past month.
Gyrowetz was an extraordinarily prolific composer, having produced over four hundred works. In addition to his sixty-plus quartets, his largest areas of output were in other instrumental forms, including piano trios (30), violin sonatas (40), and symphonies (over 60). These were written during the earlier part of his career. Later, he occupied himself with writing stage works, including over thirty operas.
The three string quartets on this CD come from the last five years of the eighteenth century. This was an exceptional time in the history of the form when Haydn published his magnificent Opp. 74, 76 and 77; and Beethoven wrote his earliest quartets of Op. 18. Gyrowetz’s string quartets are elegant, inventive, and engaging, possessing a charm and personality all their own. The sample provided of the Allegretto fourth movement of Quartet Op. 29 No. 2 shows that his music echoes the spirit, if not entirely, the greatness of the supreme quartets of the time from Haydn and Mozart.
Listeners who are hard-pressed getting their fill of Viennese Classical quartets should investigate this recording and hope that the next issue from CPO and the excellent Pleyel Quartet Köln of Gyrowetz’ quartets bears the designation “Volume Two of the Complete String Quartets.”
Adalbert Gyrowetz numbers among those composers of whom Ludwig Finscher states in Haydn und seine Zeit, “They would appear to us today to be the great composers of the epoch if they had not had the misfortune of being contemporaries of Haydn and Mozart.” Gyrowetz adhered more to the style of Pleyel and the early and middle Haydn in his early works. Still, around the turn of the century, he began to develop a clear preference for romantic musical language – as is audible in the quartets recorded here.
Schubert’s spirit – as often in the late works of Mozart and Haydn – seems to be hovering in the air. In the design of the string quartets presented here, Gyrowetz anticipates his later turn to the opera and oratorio. He leaves the narrowly defined classical instrumental style to promote a more dramatically oriented musical conception offering more freedom. Mozart performed a symphony by the young Gyrowetz in 1785 in one of his subscription concerts at the Saal zur Mehlgrube, and Beethoven is said to have regularly attended the performances of his opera Die Prüfung. Meyerbeer supported Gyrowetz in his old age, and Chopin debuted with one of his piano concertos. The Pleyel Quartet of Cologne is known for tracking down forgotten or wrongly discredited music and again rendering audible the highly valued quality it enjoyed at its time of composition. This recording also demonstrates the rewards to be gained from dedication to the literature beyond the standard repertoire.
Composer: Adalbert Gyrowetz
(Adalbert Gyrowetz) (1763 – 1850) Was a Bohemian composer. His father was the choirmaster in Budweis’ cathedral, and Adalbert first studied with him. Adalbert then traveled to Prague, where he studied law but continued to learn music. At around this time, he was in the employment of Count Franz von Fünfkirchen in Brno, whose employees were all musicians. Here he started composing, among other things, symphonies, of which he was eventually to write over 60.
Performers: Pleyel Quartett Köln
It is a particular onus of the Pleyel Quartet in their work that lesser-known composers be brought into performance context with the actions of their more famous colleagues, thus adding to the new aural perspectives arising out of each ensemble member’s broad experience in historical performance practice.