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Antonín Rejcha (1770 - 1836)
Flute Quartets, opus 98 / 1,5,6

F10099   [8595017409929]   released 6/2000

play all Antonín Rejcha: Flute Quartets - Andreas Kroper 76:51
Kvartet č.6 Gdur - Allegro moderato 12:48
Kvartet č.6 Gdur - Modulation.Largo 6:31
Kvartet č.6 Gdur - Modulation.Fugue a deux sujets 2:35
Kvartet č.6 Gdur - Finale - Poco adagio.Agitato 6:13
Kvartet č.5 C dur - Andante con Variazioni 7:40
Kvartet č.5 C dur - Allegro 8:19
Kvartet č.5 C dur - Aria - Andante.Allegro assai 3:54
Kvartet č.5 C dur - Finale - Allegro 4:31
Kvartet č.1 e moll - Allegro moderato 7:08
Kvartet č.1 e moll - Larghetto 6:18
Kvartet č.1 e moll - Minuetto 4:02
Kvartet č.1 e moll - Finale - Allegro 6:02

Andreas Kröper - traverso
Antiquarius Trio Praga
Václav Návrat - violin
Ivo Anýž - viola
Hana Fleková - cello

Antonín Rejcha was a musical prophet'
says Andreas Kröper in an interview with Dagmar Páclová for ARTA.

For years you have been actively interested in Antonín Rejcha. What is it about him that you find so interesting?
In the last third of the eighteenth century composers, such as Antonín Rejcha (who was born on 27 February 1770, in Prague, and died on 28 May 1836, in Paris), had to learn the new rules that were being set for musicians. As a consequence of the French Revolution music for the public had to be formulated so that it could be understood by everybody. Music of the Baroque and Classical periods did not correspond to that requirement, and was considered the pursuit of exclusive groups and of the educated. In the previous century a pupil learning the art of composition and how to play an instrument directly from a master was also his master's servant: he chopped wood for him, polished his boots, and so on. With the new century, that was no longer the case. And, after the French Revolution and as a result of the changes that followed from it, suddenly every citizen had the right to study music. This also led to the founding of the Paris Conservatory. In an attempt to enable every citizen to understand music, it was now maintained that one simply had to feel music. We need to recall that in the last century, to be able to feel music was something taken for granted, by both the audience and especially by the composer. It was the composer who tried to express his world of feeling with music, so that he could in turn tell the listener about his emotional processes and the excitement that had led him to create the composition.

What was the reaction to those changes?
The listener that is uneducated in music is always enthralled by, to use today's language, the 'show-principle'; people are attracted by the sensational. That was true in the past and remains so today. They didn't avoid that even in the eighteenth century. Recall all the child prodigies. But a genuine virtuoso was judged according to the extent he was willing to charm his audience with the emotion the composer wanted to express. He therefore became a sort of catalyst between composer and listener. To be a virtuoso did not mean only being able to play quickly; in the 19th century, in fact, the view gradually began to be promoted that the good musician was the one who also put on a good show. The quicker, higher, and more brilliantly the musician played, the more he was in line with the aims of the new style. It was no longer so much a matter of the content of the composition as it was a matter of its shell, which often did not even contain an egg.

Did this happen in part because music became popular, became a favourite pastime also of musical laymen?
Not at all. But it was understood differently and consequently the style of composition also changed. For instance, the ability to ornament a musical text, which in the eighteenth century had been considered the highest art, vanished. But it was a slow development, which took roughly fifty years. When Georg Philipp Telemann, in 1728 and 1732, published his Methodical Sonatas , which were sonatas for flute or violin with harmonic accompaniment (basso continuo), he wrote a second voice for most of the slow movements, which was actually an ornamented version of the first voice for the solo instrument. As a teacher Telemann therefore wanted to demonstrate how one should play and invent ornaments, and also that ornamentation, though not simple, could be learnt. Telemann wanted to motivate the growing number of musicians among the bourgeoisie and teach them what was taken for granted in the case of the virtuoso. Less than thirty years had passed since the publication of Telemann's second collection, when Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach published his Six Sonatas with Ornamented Recapitulations (1760), which indicated that all the repeated parts of these sonatas are ornamented by the composer. C. P. E. Bach, unlike Telemann, did not want to teach, but was in an opportunistic way replying to the negative developments in the middle classes. In his opinion, to decorate meant to imitate what the professional musician knew how to do as a matter of course. C. P. E. Bach wrote: 'To ornament while playing recapitulations is today unavoidable. It is expected of every performer. Only the art of ornamentation compels the audience to applaud.' The 'principle of the crowd-pleaser' eventually led to a situation where the only ornaments were written ones, and gradually all that remained was, in fact, the mere shell; quicker, higher, and more brilliant playing was considered modern. It is interesting to note that it was at this time that the chamber pitch (the Kammerton ) a ' began to be raised, which also supported the impression of virtuosity.

Can one see in that a decline in musical standards?
Considered from the point of view of eighteenth-century music it would be a decline, but from the point of view of the middle classes in the nineteenth-century it wouldn't. Therein also lay the importance of Rejcha's teaching: 'Do not forget content, which can be developed.' That is the basic thesis of his theoretical writing (for which he attained great renown). For him the development of music had not yet achieved its aim; Rejcha tended to see in the changes the possibility of continuing in areas where the public's taste in music had previously forbade them. And it was not only in France that Rejcha redirected the trends. He was accorded great honours including French citizenship, the Order of the Legion of Honour 1835, and an appointment to the Academy. He was thus recognized as part of French culture. Understandably, he also had his critics; after all, Napoleonic France was a country with tight censorship.

In your opinion was Rejcha a Czech or French composer?
Rejcha is a Czech, not only because he was born in Prague, but, and above all, because he did not abandon his Czech roots. At any rate, in the eighteenth century, concerning the emigration of musicians from Bohemia (for reasons of religious confession or earning a basic living or seeking opportunity for creative growth), no Czech musician denied his own origins. If I had to define what I feel as being typically Czech, I'd say that it is the sense of a merry melancholy in Bohemian and Moravian music, a sort of joy in which, deep down, old wounds have still not healed. At the same time, it is not at all important whether one is talking about folklore or the music of Dvořák or Janáček. One can sense the same thing in Rejcha's melodies. Antonín Rejcha indicated the direction of French music and his pupils, such as César Franck, Hector Berlioz, and Charles Gounod, built upon these foundations and made a reality ideas which Rejcha had only dreamt about in theory.

Rejcha left the Czech milieu suddenly ...
His father died when he was child. From the age of eleven he lived at his grandfather's in Klatovy. At the age of fifteen, already a highly talented flautist, he left to visit his uncle in Bonn, who was employed there as a cellist in the orchestra of Count Öttingen-Wallerstein. Here he found a new home and was employed in the Elector's orchestra, to which his uncle had been appointed Kapellmeister, in 1785. It was in Bonn that Rejcha first became acquainted with Kirnberger's and Marpurg's writings on music history. The young Ludwig van Beethoven played viola in the orchestra and he and Rejcha attended lectures together in mathematics and philosophy at the university. Both men also had the same music teacher, Christian Gottlob Neefe, who initiated them into the mysteries of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Did Rejcha consider his departure from his homeland to be emigration or a natural journey in search of education and experience?
In Rejcha's day Czech musicians were found in all the orchestras of Europe, and not just horn-players, who had always been known as 'export articles'. For Rejcha that was not as big a step as it might seem to us today; he simply went where there was work. He was young, curious, wanted to learn, enjoyed getting to know foreign lands that had a certain magic. Perhaps he was more of a European than most of us.

Did he never return to Bohemia?
Yes, he returned to Prague, where his mother lived, but nothing else bound him to that town. That seems logical to me: as a child he had lost his father, his uncle replaced his father, and so Rejcha kept close to him. We shouldn't make this a subject of nationalism, with an implication that, say, Rejcha parted with the Bohemian Lands and now, two hundred years later, we are trying to answer the question of whether he should be considered a Czech.

What is your relationship to Czech music?
I have no ancestors from Bohemia or any other ties to the country. This is my tenth year living in Bohemia. I have no relationship to the music other than that it's close to me and the country has also become close to my heart. Naturally I know the history of Czech music, but all the facts still do not help one to understand its spirit. One has to have that inside oneself.

Did Rejcha have any models?
He certainly did. In his early years one such model was his uncle, who showed him how to find his bearings in music in order to make a decent living. Then, as a young man, his teacher, Neefe, was his model and all music seemed like a model to him, for instance Bach's and Haydn's. Above all, in Joseph Haydn he saw a life-long model, and dedicated many of his own compositions to him; he even became friends with Haydn. That doesn't surprise me at all, because Rejcha was fighting for the same ideals as Haydn, who also wanted to instil the old forms with new content.

Is that true also for the flute quartets recorded on this CD?
Perhaps in no other composition is that more obvious than in Op. 98, if one doesn't include the fugues for piano. In the Foreword to these quartets Rejcha wrote that he'd composed these pieces in the style of Haydn and had wanted to write genuine quartets rather than solos for flute with string accompaniment. That, of course, means only the form; the content is Rejcha's.

As always, so on this CD, too, you ' ve used original instruments. Is the result authentic?
This recording does not aspire to be, and cannot be, authentic. But, in the selection of instruments, Václav, Ivan, Hana, and I have tried to achieve Rejcha's ideal sound. The flute that is used here has one valve, because in the years around 1800 all flute schools in Paris were promoting single-valve instruments. This one, however, is a copy; the string instruments are originals.

Is Antonín Rejcha merely a forgotten composer or is he relevant today?
Above my desk hangs a large picture frame, containing a piece of green paper with a quotation of tremendous wisdom. It is a quotation with a warning and it is surprising for its timelessness; two hundred years after it was made it has not lost any of its meaning. The quotation is embarrassing, because it shows us where we are. It goes: 'When art achieves a high degree of perfection, when it becomes the property of a nation, when the whole world, in fact, is concerned with it, then it has also reached the point where it begins to go backwards. People lose their sense of taste, misuse art and their own talent. That is the beginning of the realm of exaggeration and false splendour. Art is degraded and desecrated. It is a misfortune that one's hearing becomes accustomed in equal measure to bad music as well as to good. For everybody to consider himself to possess infallible judgement is not only laughable; it is also extremely detrimental to art. Composers who depend on public opinion sacrifice their interest in art in order to appeal to the crowd.' These words were written in 1813 by none other than Antonín Rejcha.

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