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David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2007

Johann Baptist Vanhal was born in 1739 to a Czech peasant family, his early training coming from a local musician and enabled him to earn a living as a village organist and choirmaster. A wealthy patron, who heard him play the violin, arranged for composition lessons in Vienna with the great Dittersdorf, and further patronage gave him the means to travel and to move in exalted musical circles. He was probably the first musician to earn a living entirely from composing without any other appointment, and in addition to his many symphonies, his catalogue contains 100 quartets, 95 sacred works, and countless instrumental and vocal works. That we still have most of his output comes from the fact that he allowed several publishers to print his music to meet the world-wide demand. Amongst these are seventeen works for Flute Quartet, the group of six, given the number opus 7, probably composed in the late 1760's. As with all such pieces at the time, Vanhal would have expected any woodwind instrument to play the solo, but they do sit happily on the flute, Vanhal often switching the main melodic line to the violin. Take out those two instruments and the remainder of the quartet are supplying the backdrop and thickening the texture in the more weighty moments. The performances are excellent, the string intonation from the young Janaki String Trio - winners in the United States of the 2006 Concert Artists Guild International Competition - in the centre of every note. Sample track 6, the slow movement of the Third Quartet, to enjoy Uwe Grodd's warm and velvety tone.



Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, April 2007

Vaňhal’s chamber music includes a folio of works for flute and amongst those are seventeen Flute Quartets. They were clearly popular in their day having been published by more than one publisher and were written either for flute or for oboe. One even exists in a version for Clarinet Quartet. The set was originally published in 1771 but this recording prefers to use the more influential Sieber edition of 1772.

Fortunately the performances and each of the three quartets prove attractive. The players of the Janaki String Trio and flautist Uwe Grodd play on modern instruments and do so with deft sensitivity. There is little in the way of pyrotechnical frisson – the Viennese muse here is full of proportion, equilibrium and expressive contouring, all garnished with lyrical affection. The solo instrument’s integration into the texture is exemplified by the opening Moderato of the B flat major where we find an aloofly elegant presentation of melody lines and a text book working out of themes. The slow movement of the same quartet is richly lyrical and the succeeding scherzo fluent, genial and full of expertly judged voice distribution.

The G major quartet represents another facet of Vaňhal’s command of chamber textures and rhythms – the natural buoyancy of his material. The Allegro moderato springs along with zest but controlled elegance. Note the pointed cello lines, so adroitly brought out by Arnold Choi, and Serena McKinney and Katie Kadarauch’s violin and viola statements. Doubling of the melody line is done with matching tonal reserves – small scale playing and rightly so. The pert Minuet of the C major has its counterpoint in the more ebullient moments of the Presto finale. Counter-lines are well brought out and Grodd once more ensures that his role is never one that draws undue attention to himself at the expense of his colleagues.

Naxos has used this recording location before and it absorbs the playing without magnifying it unduly. The handy notes also disclose that these are world premiere recordings.






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8:58:03 PM, 30 August 2014
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