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8.554273 - DANZI: Bassoon Concertos
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Franz Danzi (1763-1826)
Bassoon Concertos

 

In Danzi's time Europe enjoyed a flourishing musical culture. Artistically inclined members of the nobility supported opera and orchestral and chamber music in their houses and summer residences. Important composers of the period were engaged as directors of court music and those who took part were often well known and widely travelled artists. The court musical establishment in Mannheim, for example, had so many prominent musicians that Charles Burney in his journal of a tour that had taken him there could maintain that "...there are more solo players, and good composers in this, than perhaps in any other orchestra in Europe; it is an army of generals, equally to plan a battle, as to fight it." Franz Danzi was virtually born into this army on 15th May 1763, since his Italian father Innocenz had been employed as a cellist in the court orchestra of the Elector Karl Theodor from 1754. Franz Danzi's musical talents were soon recognised and so developed by his father, who taught him to play the keyboard and cello and to sing, that at the age of fifteen he was able to join the orchestra. His sister Franziska was employed as a singer in the court establishment from 1770.

Danzi also studied composition successfully with the famous Abbé Vogler and already in 1780 his first opera Azakia was performed. With his musical studies he also continued his general education and learnt languages. This enabled him later to provide musical and literary contributions to the Munich cultural publication Aurora and to the Leipzig Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung. Friedrich Rochlitz, editor of the latter publication from 1798, wrote of Danzi's years at Mannheim that he had enjoyed good schooling there, both in general knowledge and in music, adding that he was hard-working and quiet, well-mannered and respectable; he had shown an early gift for composition, was no great virtuoso, but played accurately and well; his chief strength was in vocal music and when he restricted himself to this in his compositions he was outstanding.

In 1777 the Elector Karl Theodor, as heir to Joseph Maximilian III, was obliged to move his residence to Munich. 32 of the Mannheim musicians, including Innocenz Danzi, followed a year later and were integrated into the Munich court musical establishment. Franz Danzi stayed in Mannheim with the rest of the orchestra and the theatre and served both as cellist and as répétiteur until the retirement of his father in 1783, when he took the latter's place in Munich. Meanwhile he had composed three operas, the first of which was Die Mitternactsstunde (‘The Midnight Hour’). All three were later performed in Munich.

In 1790 Danzi's marriage to the singer Margarethe Marchand, a pupil of Leopold Mozart, who had served also in Mannheim from 1777, brought a fundamental change in his life. In 1791 he took leave from Munich and set out with his wife on concert-tours, ending with his appointment in Prague as Kapellmeister of the Guardasoni Opera Company. There followed appointments in Venice and in Florence, both with considerable success.

After five years of touring, which had weakened his wife's health, he sought a secure position in Munich and in 1798 became Vice-Kapellmeister at the Bavarian court, with duties at the court opera and with the church music of the court. The death of his wife in 1800 and his lack of the chance of bettering his situation led him in 1807 to the decision to take the position of Court Kapellmeister to King Friedrich Wilhelm Karl of Württemberg, It was at this time that he met Ludwig Spohr who, in his memoirs, wrote of Danzi as in general a kind man to whom he felt himself drawn, since he had the same respect for Mozart as inspired Spohr himself; he still had in his possession as a precious souvenir of that time a duet arrangement of Mozart's Symphony in G minor, made by Danzi and written out in his own hand.

It was during his time in Stuttgart that Danzi's friendship with Carl Maria von Weber began. He performed the latter's opera Abu Hassan and gave him moral and practical support. Weber's musical correspondence with Danzi demonstrates his respect for his older friend. On 15th June 1806 a comical recitative for The Honourable Herr Kapellmeister Danzi or, in June 1811, "My dear Herr Kapellmeister, the undersigned (by name Weber) and a Herr Bärmann, yesterday looked everywhere for you, to see you, to speak to you, to hear you…"

In 1812, shortly after his appointment as composition teacher and inspector of the newly established Art Institute in Waisenhaus, Danzi moved again, now to the court at Karlsruhe. Thanks to his experience he succeeded in raising the standard of the orchestra and, with his ability in opera, performed there the great works of Mozart, Beethoven, Cherubini and, above all, Weber. He died in 1826.

Danzi's compositions include operas, Singspiel, Italian stage-works for his wife and his sister, oratorios, Masses, choruses, symphonies, concertante works, concertos, string quartets, wind quintets, quartets with solo instruments, songs, vocal exercises, sonatas, piano duet sonatas and other works, all for practical use and performed and in many cases published in his lifetime.

When the clarinettist Romeo Orsi appeared in Vienna in 1866, the critic Hanslick wrote: "Get back in the orchestra! That is the place in which we know how to value the players of clarinet, oboe and bassoon; we have had enough of it, with these artists travelling round in hordes." By then the age of wind virtuosi had been over for some forty years. The heyday of Fürstenau, Doppler, Boehm, Lebrun, Besozzi, Hermstaedt, Bärmann, Ritter, Brandl, Braun, Romberg, Pfeiffer, Eichner and Stich was at the beginning of the century. These were the players that Danzi had or that he conducted in his orchestras, who had inspired him to write various concertante works and concertos. In the programme register of the Gewandhaus Orchestra it can be seen that the best year for wind soloists, at least in Leipzig, was 1798. In nine concerts, wind-players on six occasions were soloists, among them the bassoonist Berwald in a concerto by Grenser.

Nevertheless, improvements to the piano and string instruments, the most favoured instruments of the romantic sound-palette, and the appearance of fascinating virtuosi such as Franz Liszt and Nicolò Paganini, led to the neglect of wind soloists and from about 1830 they largely disappeared from concert programmes. This again did not seem right to Hanslick and he expressed himself as follows on the matter: "The terrible dominance of the piano, though the most independent, yet also the most insistent instrument, sets us today positively against the dethroned wind instruments."

Today wind soloists, favoured through the media, are again with us, as soloists, in chamber music, in wind-ensemble music and in research into the literature of the great classical period of such instruments. When I was a student, up to 1958, Danzi was only known as the composer of wind quintets. Today almost all his works for wind, concertos, concertante music, wind sextets, bassoon quartets, with his string trios and duo sonatas with piano, have been newly edited or performed. The work of this composer, who is to be seen as an important link between classical and romantic, long forgotten as a so-called Kleinmeister, has again been brought to the attention of the public and his cultural legacy preserved. The present compact disc, therefore, is not a mere record of the past but an example of living music that, while admittedly not profound, is nevertheless charming and well composed.

Three of the four bassoon concertos included have already appeared in print, while the Concerto in G minor has been prepared by Albrecht Holder for publication by Accolade-Verlag. According to Joachim Veit, there is in existence yet another Concerto in F major. The parts for a Concertonte for two bassoons and a Concertino for bassoon seem to be lost.

The Concerto in G minor is in three movements, with a last movement Polonaise. Danzi's manuscript of the solo and orchestral parts are in the Fürstlich-Fürstenberg Library in Donaueschingen. The work was probably written during Danzi's period in Stuttgart, perhaps for the bassoonist Anton Romberg in Donaueschingen, and is scored for flute, pairs of oboes, bassoons, horns and trumpets, trombone, timpani and strings.

The three-movement Concerto No. 1 in F major has a final movement of variations on the Austrian folk-song A Schüsserl und a Reinderl, a theme also used by Weber in his Variations for Viola and Orchestra, J.49. I have added to the somewhat formulaic but highly virtuoso variations two cadenzas. The concerto is scored for pairs of oboes and horns, with strings, and was published in 1984 by Musikverlag Hans Sikorski in an edition by Joachim Veit. It was performed, perhaps for the first time, on 20th January 1805 in Munich with the soloist Franz Lang, a member of the Hofkapelle.

The Concerto in C major is also in three movements, with a final rondo. The varied repetitions of the principal rondo theme are a model of the technique of ornamentation. The concerto was published in 1982, in an edition by Joachim Veit, by Verlag Thomi-Berg (Leuckart) and is scored for pairs of oboes and horns, with strings. It was probably written for Munich. I have provided a cadenza for the first movement.

The Concerto No. 2 in F major is the best known and was published in 1963 in an edition by Dr Robert Münster by Verlag Thomi-Berg (Leuckartiana). It is scored for flute, pairs of oboes and horns, trombone and strings. The symphonic orchestral introduction, the changes between lyrical themes and virtuoso passages, the variation of major and minor and the colourful harmonic palette make the first movement a particularly fine example of Danzi's writing. The second and third movements offer, as it were, a musical drama and in the Polonaise provide the soloist with opportunities for technical display.

Eberhard Buschmann
Translation: Keith Anderson


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