Category Archives: Social History – Wind Quintets

“Our French Beethoven”

 academie-des-beaux-arts Academie des Beaux-Arts, Paris

Dubbed “Our French Beethoven”, George Onslow’s (1784-1853) musical output was dominated by the stringed instruments (for example:  36 String Quartets and 34 Quintets) According to Robert Schumann, Onslow and Mendelssohn were the only contemporary composers equivalent to Beethoven for the mastery of string quartet form. Onslow was unique in France for concentrating on small ensemble works, at a time and place when grand opera captured the imagination of most composers (and the concert public). But in 1850 Onslow, aged 66,  wrote a single Wind Quintet (F Major, Opus 81) for which he is now remembered.  That Wind Quintet, however, was not Onslow’s sole use of wind instruments.  He wrote several pieces which combined winds and strings, and which immediately preceded his famous Opus 81.  These were:

  • Opus 77a. Nonet for Winds and Strings. 1848

  • Opus 77b. Sextet for Winds and Strings. 1848

  • Opus 79a. Septet for Piano, Winds, and contrabass. 1849

  • Opus 81. Wind Quintet. 1850

Onslow was community-minded and publically active in the first half of the 19th century; he was awarded numerous honours, including:

More on George Onslow

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Titled “Galerie des compositeurs dramatiques modernes“,  this charming postcard was created by French lithographer Nicolas Eustache Maurin (1799-1850). It depicts the leading composers working in Paris at mid-19th century. Featured, among others, are GEORGE ONSLOW (back row, 3rd from left), HECTOR BERLIOZ (back row, far left), FELIX MENDELSSOHN (back row 2nd from right), and GIOCOMO MEYERBEER (front row, 2nd from left?). It was published in the French music journal, Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris in 1844:  A weekly journal owned and produced by music publisher Maurice Schlesinger.  The journal featured articles about music by such notables as:  Franz Liszt, Georges Sand, Robert Schumann and Richard Wagner. In a supplementary issue, the Revue published a collection of hundreds of onslow-signature-revueetgazettemu1844pari_0019signatures of “compositeurs“.  Gorge Onslow’s appears on page 11  (middle – lower page).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Danzi Quintet opus 56 no. 1

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Franz Danzi, Quintet in B Flat, Op. 56, #1: Mov’t 1: Allegretto played by the Toronto Wind Quintet

Danzi’s first wind quintet from 1821, when he was attempting to storm Paris with the new genre.  He was 58 at the time, and died just five years later.  His wind quintet rival Anton Reicha outlived him by 10 years.

The Philidor Dynasty

EAST WINDIES LOGO small.jpg  PHILIDOR FRANCOIS ANDRE

                       Francois-Andre Danican Philidor

In the 17th & 18th centuries, the family Philidor served as court musicians and composers to French royalty over several generations. Their original surname, Danican, became Philidor when Louis XIII so-dubbed his oboist Michel Danican, after an Italian virtuoso named “Filidori”.  Michel was Grandad to a number of prominent musicians, among them two Philidors famous for rather divergent interests:  Anne Danican Philidor (1681 – 1728), who started the celebrated concert series Concert Spirituel (he was also an accomplished composer); and Francois-Andre Danican Philidor (1726 – 1795)—the very late younger brother of Anne Danican—who was a celeb chess master, renoun for “the Philidor defence” (opening) and “the Philidor position” (endgame).  Above is a picture of the chess master, Francois-Andre (Image search “Philidor”. Chessmanias.com. 27.3.16).

This post based on “Philidor”. en.wikipedia.org. 30.3.2016.

Franz Danzi’s Disappointments

EAST WINDIES LOGO small.jpgFranz Danzi (1763 – 1826) had all the trappings of a successful musical career. He was born into and lived his entire life within a family of professional musicians:  His father, older sister, wife, brother-in-law, and nieces were all publically recognized musicians and/or composers.  Danzi himself was a gifted cellist, joining the famed Mannheim orchestra at a mere age 15 and replacing his own father as principal Mannheim cellist at the age of 21. Danzi did receive court appointments, for example as Kapellmeister at Stuttgart in 1807 and later at Karlsrughe in 1812.  And yet there were so many disappointments:

1.     His first love was opera, and he sought fame therein;  but Danzi’s operas were never popular and he struggled to achieve recognition (even performance) in that genre.

2.    Danzi’s older sister Franziska Danzi Lebrun was a sensation on the Continent and in England, as a vocal star and composer—Charles Burney, for example, wrote about Franziska; and her portrait was painted by Charles Gainsborough. This was a level of recognition never achieved by her younger brother Franz.

3.    His famous sister died at age 35 of a broken heart, following the early death of her own husband.

4.    His marriage was disappointingly brief: his wife Margarethe Marchand Danzi (a successful opera star in her own right) died just 10 years after their wedding of lung disease.  She was only 31.

5.    His Kapellmeister duties apparently kept him overworked to the extent he did little composing during his Stuttgart period, after which he produced much of the instrumental and chamber music for which we now remember him best.

6.    His final appointment to Karlsruhe was a professional struggle, as Danzi tried to shore up an inexperienced and weak group of musicians.

So Danzi’s would seem a life of professional disappointments and early deaths. All of which  might explain his rush to publish his late wind quintets in the wake of Reicha’s Paris success (see our earlier post “More a Matter of Getting in on the Act…” 8.03.2016)

     Francesca Lebrun (1756-1791) Sister of Franz Danzi
 FRANCESCA LEBRUN 1756 - 1791
The Gainsborough Portrait
Image Search “Francesca Lebrun”. En.wikipedia.org. 23.03.2016
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Recording cover for Lebrun’s music
Image search “Francesca Lebrun”. http://www.jewish-music.blogspot.com. 23.03.2016

This post is based on the following articles:

a ) “Franz (Ignaz) Danzi”.  www.oxfordmusiconline.com23.3.2016
b)  Uncle Dave Lewis, “Francesca Lebrun Artist Biography”. http://www.allmusic.com. 23.03.2016

 

What to Wear to the Concert Spirituel?

EAST WINDIES LOGO small.jpgIn 1820’s Paris, there was a “buzz” around the newly-fashionable wind quintet genre. So what would you wear to a Franz Danzi or Reicha concert at that most famous venue, the Concert Spirituel? (1)   Here are a couple of trending suggestions from the Empire Era:

EMPIRE FASHION 1812 OLD RAGS              Empire Fashion Men

(images above from www.world4.eu. 7.03.2016)

 

concert spiriturel

Tuileries Palace, site of the Concert Spirituel

 Image by Unknown. http://www.tuileries.org/page.php?id=bolladri%E8re.cote.cour. 19.03.2016
  1. The Concert Spirituel was a concert venue and one of the first public concert series in existence during the 18th Century (1725 – 1790). Later concerts were revived during the Restoration (1814 – 1830). “Concert Spirituel”.  En.wikipedie.org/wiki/Concert_Spirituel. 10.3.2016.