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The Consort

David J Golby

Volume 72, Summer 2016

Václav Pichl String Quartet in E flat major Op. 13, No. 3
ed. Christopher Hogwood
Edition HH, HH196.FSP, Launton, 2015 (pbk, £29)
ISMN 979 0 708092 67 4

Concerto a quadro del Sign: Hendell for flute, violin, viola, cello (with optional basso continuo)
ed. Christopher Hogwood
Edition HH, HH369.FSP, Launton, 2014 (pbk, £14.75)
ISMN 979 0 708041 88 7


I think it is fitting to begin this review with an acknowledgement of Christopher Hogwood and a personal expression of sadness at the death of this hugely influential scholar and performer in September 2014. Over the last few years I have had the great pleasure of reviewing for The Consort quite a few of his superb editions for Edition HH, and the quality and vision of his work in this context is one of the main reasons why I have formed such a high opinion of this vibrant and pioneering publisher and their output. This edition of one of Václav Pichl’s string quartets, completed shortly before Hogwood’s death, epitomises his qualities as an editor and musicologist. The happy marriage of scholarly rigour and exemplary presentation for the purposes of performance is evident on every page.

All three quartets which form the Op. 13 set by Václav Pichl (1741-1805) have been published by Edition HH, and they are a very welcome addition to the repertory. This Czech composer is one of a large group of composer-performers who attracted much attention and admiration during their lifetime but who have subsequently fallen into almost total obscurity. Edition HH has come to the rescue of many such composers, and Pichl is as deserving of this treatment as any.

As is often the case during this period, his biography features many prominent names, including both Mozart and Haydn. Pichl was famously chosen instead of Mozart as music director by Archduke Ferdinando d’Este, the Austrian governor of Lombardy at Milan, where he resided from 1777, until the French invasion of Lombardy in 1796 caused him to return to Vienna. Pichl was also well known to Haydn, who performed his compositions at Eszterháza. The German edition of Pichl’s quartets (1788) which forms the basis of the current volume is dedicated to Pichl’s friend and supporter Dittersdorf. Pichl was a noted violinist as well as a prolific composer, and his many surviving works offer publishers and editors a very fertile ground for further discoveries. His fugues for solo violin are already well established, particularly as teaching material, and the quartet presented here will prove an asset for string players wishing to extend their repertoire.

I always try to perform the music I receive for review, be it with friends, colleagues, or students. In this case, the friends with whom I performed Pichl’s quartet in E flat all commented on its attractiveness and interest, particularly as a result of the challenges it poses. There is a genuine concertante dimension to this music, in which everyone has a time to shine (the cellist has some particularly interesting moments to contend with). According to Hogwood’s excellent Introduction, this is characteristic of all three quartets in the set.

The music was compared with that of Boccherini several times during our rehearsals, although Haydn’s music is perhaps the more obvious parallel. Pichl’s style is delightfully inventive although, on the basis of what we have here, he cannot be considered a match for Haydn or Mozart in terms of melodic grace or harmonic subtleties; but, then again, who can?

We chose to programme this piece alongside fellow Bohemian Dvorák’s Quartet Op. 105. Understandably, as a resident of Italy in the service of an Austrian master for much of his professional life, Pichl wears his nationality far more lightly, but for us, this proved to be a wholly successful combination. Pichl’s short but irresistibly inventive slow movement entitled ‘Romance’ was a favourite, and there were other little gems to enjoy, such as the brief but deftly handled development of the first movement. The previously unpublished Concerto a quadro del Sign: Hendell, part of Hogwood’s personal collection in the form presented, is unlikely to be by Handel himself, but nevertheless offers a rare, early and welcome addition to the very limited repertoire for flute quartet. It is in effect a flute concerto, with violin ripieno, a viola occupying the territory of a second violin for much of the time, and a single cello bass line. However, it may have come into existence with a fuller complement of forces, and Hogwood has done us a great favour in adding editorial figuring to the cello part to allow a great deal more flexibility.

For a piece of just nine pages in length, the Textual Notes are quite extensive, reflecting the extent of the editorial effort and expert guidance that have contributed to this edition. It is certainly worth it, as the result is a highly performable and rewarding short piece containing many of the most attractive traits of a mature baroque style, including vibrant and dynamic thematic ideas, idiomatic figuration, and a few harmonic surprises. This would be a perfect choice to provide a moderately advanced student flautist with experience of solo performance and of leading a small ensemble. Like the Pichl edition, this publication forms a very small part of Christopher Hogwood’s enormous legacy and his unique and generous contribution to the world of music and musicians.

We are grateful to theThe Consort for permission to reproduce this review.

Add to shopping basketPichl, String quartet in E flat major
Leaflet Descriptive leaflet (String quartet)

Add to shopping basketConcerto a quadro del Sign: Hendell
Leaflet Descriptive leaflet (Concerto a quadro)

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