Antoine Reicha’s F major Quintet is conventional, though his craftsmanship is not to be gainsaid. Antoine Reicha (as he became; he was born Antonín, or Anton, Rejcha in Prague on 26 February 1770) was one of the leading pedagogues of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. Among his more illustrious pupils were Berlioz, Liszt, and, briefly in the last year of his life, César Franck. In his youth he knew Beethoven and C G Neefe (his adoptive family moved to Bonn in 1785 where Anton played flute and violin in the Hofkapelle) and also Haydn. After a few unsuccessful years in Paris, 1801 found him in Vienna where he took lessons from Albrechtsberger (from whom, like Beethoven, he probably gained his mastery of contrapuntal techniques) and Salieri. In 1808 he returned to Paris, dreaming of operatic success. Though this was not forthcoming, as a composer of chamber music his fame continued to grow: he produced no fewer than four sets of wind quintets. Such was his reputation that he was appointed professor of counterpoint and fugue at the Conservatoire in 1818 and it was around this time that his Cours de composition musicale
was published. The famous Traité de haute composition musicale
, his most important treatise, followed between 1824 and 1826. This work provoked much controversy and within a few years had been translated into English, Italian and Spanish.
The F major Quintet, Op 107, dates from the Paris years, being written probably between 1821 and 1826 and published in Paris in 1829 in a version for clarinet and strings in G major. Reicha had said of his six quartets for flute and strings, Op 98, that they were true quartets rather than sonatas or solos for flute with string accompaniment, and the same holds good for the Quintet. The first movement demonstrates Reicha’s mastery of sonata form; the delaying of any extensive reference to the minor mode until the development section is reached is particularly effective. The B flat major Andante has a definite archaic feel to its with its dotted Sicilian rhythms, and the melting coda sounds as though the composer had the equivalent point in the Larghetto of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in mind; but Reicha’s originality is manifest in the Minuet and finale which both show his propensity for asymmetric phrases (something Berlioz was to imitate). The lightweight nature of the finale is agreeably offset by an elaborate fugato section in the middle, and the return of the main theme is delayed as long as possible finally reappearing after a mock cadenza.
from notes by Andrew Mikolajski © 1999