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Michael Carter
American Record Guide, December 2001

"German cellist and composer Franz Danzi (1763-1826) was a member of what Dr Charles Burney referred to as the "army of generals" that made up the Mannheim school. Today, it is Danzi's elegant writing for winds, specifically for wind quintet, that gets his music on records.

In the middle decades of the 18th Century, music was entering a period of change. The symphony and string quartet were under development and other innovative forms were being tried, not only in Mannheim, but also in other major musical centers like Paris. Among these was the wind quintet, employing flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon.

The French and the Mannheim composers had written concertant symphonies that employed more than a singular wind soloist, but Franz Danzi--along with Anton Reicha--used five different wind instruments in a chamber music grouping. Both composers were hoping to create a genre that would rival the popularity of the string quartet. The primary difference between their efforts is that Reicha's music demanded virtuoso performers, where Danzi--with an eye toward the growing market of amateur musicians--placed less emphasis on virtuosity, but still created music with some technical challenge for each musician.

The three wind quintets of Opus 68 were engraved in 1823 or 1824 by Johann Andre. They follow the standard four movement form and exhibit Danzi's ability to create attractive melodies that are sometimes underpinned by a gentle chromaticism. And the horn sonata--actually the first edition of 1813 advertised it for horn or cello--belongs to a genre common in the late 18th and early 19th centuries where the piano is the principal protagonist. Minor-key works were scarce for an instrument like the horn, which was severely limited in the darker-hued tonalities because of a lack of valves, but it is clear that the horn was the intended instrument from the fact that both the exquisite Larghetto and the concluding Allegretto are cast in E major.

Michael Thompson's playing is excellent. He replaced Barry Tuckwell in the Barry Tuckwell Wind Quintet, and the name was then changed. The ensemble is now engaged in a complete traversal of Danzi wind quintets, and their performance thus far is ne plus ultra and comparable to the camaraderie found in the finest string quartets. The players have an uncommon sense of balance, of give and take, and a unity of purpose and commitment that is rare indeed. The result spells pleasure from beginning to end."

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