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8.553952 - ZIMMERMANN, A: String Quartets Nos. 1-3
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Anton Zimmermann (1741-1781)

Anton Zimmermann (1741-1781)

String Quartets Nos. 1-3


An acclaimed contemporary of Haydn and Mozart, Anton Zimmermann spent a considerable span of his productive life in Bratislava (Pressburg, the Hungarian Pozsony). Not only did he fit in perfectly with the prevailing cultural environment, but very soon after settling there, at the beginning of the 1770s, he found himself in a leading position in the musical life of the city. Then the capital of Hungary, it was also the centre of political, economic, religious, and cultural development of the country. As an important centre of European musical culture of the time, the city was able to provide a good living and ample creative space for many prominent composers. The cultural standards of the day also attracted a great many skilled musicians, and even such important figures as Joseph Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven contributed to the city’s rich cultural heritage.


It seems probable that Anton Zimmermann had his musical education in Silesia, where he was born in 1741 at Siroká Niva (Breitenau). It is known that he had served as an organist at the cathedral in Hradec Kralové (Königgrätz). In Bratislava he was employed by the Bishop and, some time later, by the Cardinal and Hungarian Primate Count Jozef Batthyányi (1727-1799). Until his premature death in October 1781, Anton Zimmermann served there in a variety of rôles, as an artistic manager, a conductor, a violinist, and a Princely Court Composer (fürstlicher Hofkompositeur).


Cardinal Batthyányi’s orchestra enjoyed a very considerable reputation throughout Central Europe, and it was for this that Zimmermann composed much of his instrumental music. He left an extensive body of work in almost all musical genres and forms of the day. Most significant in terms of development, however, are his instrumental compositions, above all symphonies, concertos, sonatas, and chamber compositions, with duets, trios, quartets, quintets, sextets, and various other works.


A major part of Zimmermann’s music which he managed to publish himself is in the field of chamber music. To this belong the Six Sonatas, Op. 2, and the Six Quartets, Op. 3, issued under the title SEI /QUARTETTI/ per / Due Violini, Viola e Basso /Composti/ del Signore /ZIMMERMANN Thedesco. / OPERA IIIa. These were published by Quera in Lyons. But while the public was informed of the publication of the Sonatas, Op. 2, by the Journal de Paris in 1777, the appearance of the Quartets, Op. 3, seems to have had no mention in the press. More information as to the date of publication, however, comes from Breitkopf’s thematic catalogue. In the list of works published in the years 1776-1777, the catalogue records the printed edition of Anton Zimmermann’s Six Quartets, Op. 3. At the moment, the printed version of the quartets is preserved in the Brussels Conservatoire, while the manuscripts are in the Prague National Museum, Vienna National Austrian Library, and at the Benedictine monastery of Kremsmünster.


Anton Zimmermann drew heavily on Joseph Haydn’s compositional idiom. The latter’s influence is clearly identifiable not only in symphonies, which led to some confusion of attribution, but also in the chamber music. Apart from comparable melodic writing, affinities can be traced primarily in the compositional techniques employed and in the way the cycles of works have been constructed. Zimmermann, of course, was not the only composer to have broken away from earlier restrictions of phrasal forms and to produce more flexible structures, capable of accommodating and combining a variety of formal elements.


The principal feature of Zimmermarm’s chamber music for strings, compared with the work of other composers of the period, is its tendency towards orchestral idioms in structure and style. The application of orchestral stylistic elements brought remarkable melodic results, leading to an enhanced expressive capacity and an economy of compositional devices. This allowed Zimmermann to attain in his chamber music fresh, innovative effects which set it apart from mainstream stile galant chamber music of the day. This judgement is amply supported by the first three of the Six Quartets, Op. 3, the Quartets in E flat major, B major, and F major).


Darina Múdra

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