About this Recording
8.573541 - HOFFMEISTER, F.A.: 3 Duets, Op. 6 / BEETHOVEN, L. van: 3 Duets, WoO 27 (arr. F. Hermann for violin and cello) (Mills, Vukotic)

Franz Anton Hoffmeister (1754–1812) • Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)
Duos for Violin and Cello


Born in Rothenburg am Neckar in 1754, the eighth child in his family, Franz Anton Hoffmeister moved to Vienna at the age of fourteen to study law, and also, doubtless, in order to pursue his musical interests. In 1778 he was appointed Kapellmeister to Count Franz von Szecsenyi, spending the following three years with his employer in Hungary. In Vienna once more he established a music publishing business, at first with the bookseller Rudolf Gräffer, announcing its foundation in the Wiener Zeitung in January 1784. It was during these years that he was closely associated with Mozart, personally and as a publisher. In 1791 he opened a branch in Linz, which lasted a relatively short time, and in 1795 he sold the greater part of his business to Artaria. During a concert tour in Leipzig in 1798 with the flautist Franz Thurner he met the organist Ambrosius Kühnel, with whom, in 1800, he set up another publishing business, the Bureau de Musique, thereafter dividing his time between Leipzig and Vienna, where his wife ran the business. In 1805 he handed the Leipzig firm over to Kühnel, after whose death in 1813 the business was acquired by C.F. Peters, and returned to Vienna, selling a number of his publications to the Chemische Druckerey.

Hoffmeister’s involvement with publishing was intermittent, but he issued works by some of the most distinguished of his contemporaries, including Beethoven, Förster, Haydn, Mozart, Pleyel, Albrechtsberger, Clementi, Vaňhal and Wranitzky. He was, at the same time, very active as a composer, with compositions including fifty or so symphonies, some sixty concertos, a quantity of chamber music and a number of Singspiel. Among these last Der Königssohn aus Ithaca, with a libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder, who staged the work at the Freihaus-Theater in 1795, won particular success, with Schikaneder’s ‘Parrot’ song, sung by the prince’s more earthy companion, Colifonio, Bey grossen und mächtigen Herren / möcht ich wohl ein Papagey sein (With great and mighty masters / I should like to be a parrot) enjoying particular popularity. Hoffmeister’s compositions were known to the Mozarts in Salzburg, where his quartets had been played, as we learn from Nannerl Mozart’s diary for August 1780. When Mozart settled in Vienna in 1781 he had direct personal contact with Hoffmeister and a letter of November 1785 finds Mozart asking him for money, a request with which Hoffmeister seems to have complied by the payment of two ducats, an advance on the publication of Mozart’s Piano Quartet, K. 478. Letters home in 1790 by Mozart to his wife concern business matters with Hoffmeister, presumably for an advance, a matter that seems to acquire increasing urgency. Beethoven’s correspondence with Hoffmeister occurs between 1800 and 1803 and largely concerns the planned publication of works by Beethoven and suggestions of double-dealing by him, which he is eager to refute.

Hoffmeister’s compositions include a number of duets, works for pairs of instruments likely to appeal to the amateur market. The Duos for violin and cello, Op. 6, were published in Berlin by J.J. Hummel as Op. 5, in about 1788, and in London by William Forster as Op. 6. The first of the set of three duets, the Duo in C major, starts with a sonata-form Allegro, the principal melody announced by the violin and followed by the cello. The F major second movement, a Romance, is followed by a final Rondo. The second Duo is in F major and makes greater demands, with its exploration of wider registers of both violin and cello. The second of its two movements makes use of rapid figuration and at times the higher ranges of the cello. The third of the set is in A major and in two movements, a sonata-form Allegro, followed by a Rondo marked by rapid figuration.

Beethoven spent his childhood in Bonn, where his grandfather had once been Kapellmeister to the Archbishop-Elector, and his father continued as a less competent singer in the archiepiscopal musical establishment. His early abilities led to a journey to Vienna for lessons with Mozart that came to nothing when Beethoven was forced to return to Bonn, where his mother had fallen ill. After her death he came to assume responsibility for his two younger brothers and for the affairs of his father, whose professional and domestic obligations had become increasingly affected by his drinking. In 1792 Beethoven was sent again by his patron to Vienna, to study with Haydn, from whom he claimed to have learnt nothing. Whatever the truth of this, Beethoven made use of his opportunities for wider study, with lessons from the old court composer Salieri, and, in counterpoint, from Albrechtberger. He came to Vienna already armed with important introductions, and over the years he was to benefit significantly from aristocratic and royal patronage, support that became even more important when deafness gradually prevented him from collaborating in public performance. This disability allowed him, however, to concentrate his gifts on composition and the development of works that were to set a challenge to future musicians. By the time of his death in 1827 he had won a wide reputation throughout Europe and a dominant position in the musical life of Vienna.

There has been some doubt about the authenticity of the three Duos for clarinet and bassoon, conjecturally dated by some to Beethoven’s final years in Bonn, 1790–1792. The pieces appeared in Paris in the second decade of the nineteenth century and, whatever their origin, make a pleasing and useful addition to repertoire, either in their original form or in various arrangements, particularly that for violin and cello. Duo No. 1 in C major opens with a sonata-form movement in which melodies are equitably shared between the two instruments. The second movement is in a melancholy C minor, followed, without a break, by a final Rondo, which includes a minor key episode before the final appearance of the cheerful principal theme. Duo No. 2 in F major entrusts the first theme to the cello, followed by the violin. The D minor Aria that provides the slow movement, gives the melody to the violin, and the work ends with a Rondo. Duo No. 3 in B flat major follows its sonata-form first movement with a second that is a series of variations, the first with a running cello accompaniment and a second in which the plucked notes of the cello accompany rapid triplet semiquaver figuration for the violin. The third variation introduces syncopation and the fourth has the melody allocated to each instrument in turn, accompanied by rapid demismeiquavers. The movement ends with a final Allegro assai.

Keith Anderson

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