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Georg DRUSCHETZKY (1745 - 1819): "Oboe Quartets Vol. 1"


rec: Sept 8 - 12, 2013 & Sept 2, 2014, Coswig, Börse Coswig (Ballsaal)
CPO - 555 171-2 (© 2019) (77'58")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Quartet in C; Quartet in E flat; Quartet in F; Quartet in g minor; Quartet in B flat
[encore] Leos JANÁCEK (1854-1928): Dobrú Noc

Eduard Wesly, oboe; Ulrike Titze, violin; Bettina Ihrig, viola; Ulrike Becker, cello

Georg Druschetkzy is one of those composers from the classical era who are almost completely overshadowed by the towering figures of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. He is what some scholars like to a call a 'minor master'. We owe it to adventurous musicians like the members of the Grundmann-Quartett that their music is performed and recorded. And often, as is the case with Druschetzky, that music turns out to be of such quality that one wonders why it has been ignored.

It is telling that the article on Druschetzky in New Grove is very short: just ten lines. He was one of many musicians from Bohemia who made a career elsewhere, in his case Germany and Austria. He studied the oboe with Carlo Besozzi in Dresden, and then joined the military as a musician, which brought him to, among others, Vienna and Linz. From 1768 to 1775 Druschetzky was a regimental musician, ending his career as such in the position of Kapellmeister. In the mid-1780s he was in Vienna, where he was a member of the Tonkünstler-Societät. Some years later he entered the service of Count Anton Grassalkovics at Pressburg (Bratislava), where he was responsible for the wind band. After the count's death in 1794, he moved to Pest, where he was in the service of Cardinal Battyány. Shortly after the turn of the century he became music director and composer for the wind octet of Archduke Joseph Anton Johann in Budapest.

Although Druschetzky composed a number of symphonies and a few solo concertos, music for wind band takes a special place in his oeuvre. The work-list in New Grove mentions "c150 partitas and serenades" for five to nine wind instruments. In addition he wrote many pieces for three basset horns and arranged chamber music by Beethoven (for instance his Septet op. 20) and arranged large-scale works by Haydn (Die Schöpfung, Die Jahreszeiten) and Mozart (Die Zauberflöte). His chamber music includes a considerable number of string quartets as well as pieces for a wind instrument (oboe, horn, cor anglais) and strings.

The present disc, released in 2019, is the first of probably three that explore Druschetzky's output for oboe and string trio. Some of them have been published in modern editions, others are only available in manuscript, some of which are probably autographs. Five quartets are recorded here, which comprise three or four movements. Although the oboe is formally part of the ensemble, it unmistakebly plays the leading role, and has most of the thematic material.

In his liner-notes, Eduard Wesly, the ensemble's oboist, observes a remarkable change in Druschetzky's style of composing. "The works he composed in his early years show a moderate and unexceptional creativity." This is very different in the oboe quartets he wrote in the latest stage of his career. "In these late oboe quartets, Druschetzky in his own way often reaches similar heights as the surprise artist Haydn." Features of Haydn's style - "taking an audience by surprise and playing with what it expects" - manifest themselves, in his opinion, also in Druschetzky's oboe quartets.

There are several notable features in these quartets. Take, for instance, the andante from the Quartet in g minor, which is based on the BACH theme. In the last movement the oboe plays twice a chromatic line across its range, first descending, then ascending. I already mentioned that Druschetzky arranged music by his more famous contemporaries for wind band. The Quartet in F also includes an arrangement, this time it is the andante from Mozart's Sonata in G (KV 501) for keyboard à quatre mains. The Quartet in E flat has as its opening movement an allegro which is preceded by an adagio section, which Wesly calls "a jewel among the many eighteenth-century settings of a sunrise which it resembles." Notable in this quartet is also the andante poco adagio in the minor. A turn to the minor also takes place in one of the variations in the closing movement of the Quartet in C. A remarkable piece is also the closing movement of the Quartet in B flat, which opens with a canon and then suddenly turns into a fugue. These quartets are not devoid of dramatic elements either. Specimens are the opening movement of the Quartet in C and the two fast movements of the Quartet in g minor. The former is an example of the surprise which Wesly considers one of the features of Druschetzky's oboe quartets.

The exploration of this part of his oeuvre is well deserved. I have greatly enjoyed these quartets, and I assume that in particular lovers of the oboe will be keen to add this disc to their collection. They will look forward to the ensuing volumes in this series as much as I do. The quality of the music is one reason, the other the way Wesly and his colleagues play them. The enthusiasm of the members of the Grundmann-Quartett is infectious. They take the listeners with them on their voyage of discovery. This is perfect entertainment.

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

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