Romberg: Flute Quintets, Op. 41/1-3

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COMPOSERS: Romberg
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Flute Quintets, Op. 41/1-3
PERFORMER: Vladislav Brunner (flute), Viktor Šimcisko (violin), Milan Telecký, Ján Cút (viola), Juraj Alexander (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554765
In his own day the string quartets of Andreas Romberg (1767-1821) were ranked alongside those of Haydn and Mozart. But shortly after his death they rapidly fell into oblivion – unfairly, on the evidence here. Romberg’s music shares little of his great Viennese contemporaries’ argumentative rigour and capacity for inspired surprise. His is essentially a relaxed, urbane art. But judged on its own terms this is beguiling music: civilised, expertly crafted (Romberg was a fluent purveyor of the conversational quartet textures perfected by Haydn), and shot through with a distinctive vein of gentle pathos. Highlights include the elegiac chromatic minuet of the G minor (a foretaste here of the Romantic intermezzo), the shapely Mozartian Romanze of the same Quartet, and the canonic minuet of the A minor, a homage to the ‘witches’ minuet’ in Haydn’s Op. 76/2. As on its previous Romberg disc, the Leipzig Quartet is a cultivated advocate of this unfailingly euphonious music.

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There’s also plenty to enjoy in Romberg’s graceful, melodious flute quintets – the warm-toned Larghetto of No. 1, for instance, which at one point drifts into ‘God save the King’, or the Haydnish opening movement of No. 3, with its finely woven contrapuntal textures. Though the flute has its moments of concertante display, this is always true chamber music, marked by a deft interplay between flute and strings. Despite a touch of wiriness from the strings, performances are again sympathetically phrased and paced, with an agile, elegantly turned contribution from Slovakian flautist Vladislav Brunner. Richard Wigmore