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Phil Vendy
Fine Music, July 2007

Stamitz was perhaps the definitive composer of the distinctive Mannheim genre. …his music is full of melody and harmony, playful sallies and gruff responses, dashing away in one movement and gently reflective in the next, flowing from phrase to phrase within the longer movements. …So much tension, such effervescent energy. You are bound to love it.

American Record Guide, April 2007

Carl Stamitz (1745-1801) was one of the best known of the second generation of the Mannheim composers. He worked in Paris in the 1770s and traveled and performed widely, composing prolifically. He made his mark widely by not accepting a permanent position.

These quartets were written to be played either by a quartet or an orchestra. They were published in Paris in 1776. These are a great advance over their predecessors. Two are specifically labeled as orchestral quartets and two are called concertante quartets. (The other two are simply called quartets but specify that the highest part may be played by flute, oboe, violin, or clarinet.) They are clearly larger-scale works than his earlier string quartets. These are certainly eye opening works for modern listeners. The concertante quartets can be played as miniature concertos.

These New Zealand performances have grace and beauty. The New Zealand Symphony Chamber Orchestra was founded 20 years ago by Donald Armstrong. They are a fine group. The recording is good and spacious, with good notes. I don't think I have heard any of these works before and am very pleased with this.

David Blomenberg
MusicWeb International, February 2007

Naxos has now brought to four the number of CDs dedicated exclusively to the son of Johann Stamitz, the leader of the Mannheim court orchestra. It was from his father that Carl got a substantial share of his own musical education before working under the tutelage of Franz Xaver Richter and Christian Cannabich.The younger Carl took his place in the orchestra as second violinist before becoming court composer for Duke Louis of Noailles in France, where he stayed for some time before moving on to take his talent on the road with extensive touring throughout Europe.

We have on this release two-thirds of the quartets published as Op. 14, the two not included being specifically written as traditional quartets. Stamitz’s Orchestral Quartets were intended as a sort of “convertible” orchestral piece, designed to be played as works for a rather small-sized string orchestra or as a true quartet. These are eminently listenable, with plenty of lovely melodies to enjoy. The two Concertante quartets prominently feature a single violin part and, according to the liner notes, are more ambiguous regarding their “convertible” quartet-or-orchestral status. They seem, in the listening, to be more likely to have been written to be performed as orchestral pieces. I agree with our previous reviewer in choosing the Orchestral Quartet No. 4 as my personal favourite on the disc, but all of the works here hold great pleasure for the listener, including the charming interplay of solo violin parts throughout the Concertante Quartet No. 2 - such as at 1:25 in the opening movement and at 0:45 in the third. The central slow movement of the No. 2 has a wonderful sense of poise and balance, with brief solo and duet moments rising over the placid surface of the backing strings before things tip gracefully into the ending Presto.

The NZSO Chamber Orchestra performs these pieces with a verve and effervescence that is warmly recorded. I’ve returned to these pieces often over the course of the past rather bleakly overcast and sodden week and they bring with them their own sunshine.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, November 2006

Of the various members of this musically gifted dynasty, Carl is my favourite. His works abound in energetic, driving themes, sparkling string writing, and in the slow movements grace and elegance. The New Zealanders under the direction of Donald Armstrong tackle this music with the kind of verve and virtuosity that have happily become the standard the world over. Recorded in Sacred Hearts Cathedral in Wellington, the audio quality is spacious and resounding. This is a superb performance and recording!

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