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ClassicsOnline Home » DANZI: Bassoon Concertos
By Steven E. Ritter
American Record Guide
Franz Danzi (1763-1826)
In Danzi's time Europe enjoyed a flourishing musical culture.
Artistically inclined members of the nobility supported opera and orchestral
and chamber music in their houses and summer residences. Important composers of
the period were engaged as directors of court music and those who took part
were often well known and widely travelled artists. The court musical
establishment in Mannheim, for example, had so many prominent musicians that
Charles Burney in his journal of a tour that had taken him there could maintain
that "...there are more solo players, and good composers in this, than
perhaps in any other orchestra in Europe; it is an army of generals, equally to
plan a battle, as to fight it." Franz Danzi was virtually born into this
army on 15th May 1763, since his Italian father Innocenz had been employed as a
cellist in the court orchestra of the Elector Karl Theodor from 1754. Franz
Danzi's musical talents were soon recognised and so developed by his father, who
taught him to play the keyboard and cello and to sing, that at the age of
fifteen he was able to join the orchestra. His sister Franziska was employed as
a singer in the court establishment from 1770.
Danzi also studied composition successfully with the famous Abbé Vogler
and already in 1780 his first opera Azakia was performed. With his
musical studies he also continued his general education and learnt languages.
This enabled him later to provide musical and literary contributions to the
Munich cultural publication Aurora and to the Leipzig Allgemeine
Musikalische Zeitung. Friedrich Rochlitz, editor of the latter publication
from 1798, wrote of Danzi's years at Mannheim that he had enjoyed good
schooling there, both in general knowledge and in music, adding that he was
hard-working and quiet, well-mannered and respectable; he had shown an early
gift for composition, was no great virtuoso, but played accurately and well;
his chief strength was in vocal music and when he restricted himself to this in
his compositions he was outstanding.
In 1777 the Elector Karl Theodor, as heir to Joseph Maximilian III, was
obliged to move his residence to Munich. 32 of the Mannheim musicians,
including Innocenz Danzi, followed a year later and were integrated into the
Munich court musical establishment. Franz Danzi stayed in Mannheim with the
rest of the orchestra and the theatre and served both as cellist and as
répétiteur until the retirement of his father in 1783, when he took the
latter's place in Munich. Meanwhile he had composed three operas, the first of
which was Die Mitternactsstunde (‘The Midnight Hour’). All three were
later performed in Munich.
In 1790 Danzi's marriage to the singer Margarethe Marchand, a pupil of
Leopold Mozart, who had served also in Mannheim from 1777, brought a
fundamental change in his life. In 1791 he took leave from Munich and set out
with his wife on concert-tours, ending with his appointment in Prague as Kapellmeister
of the Guardasoni Opera Company. There followed appointments in Venice and
in Florence, both with considerable success.
After five years of touring, which had weakened his wife's health, he
sought a secure position in Munich and in 1798 became Vice-Kapellmeister at
the Bavarian court, with duties at the court opera and with the church music of
the court. The death of his wife in 1800 and his lack of the chance of
bettering his situation led him in 1807 to the decision to take the position of
Court Kapellmeister to King Friedrich Wilhelm Karl of Württemberg, It
was at this time that he met Ludwig Spohr who, in his memoirs, wrote of Danzi
as in general a kind man to whom he felt himself drawn, since he had the same
respect for Mozart as inspired Spohr himself; he still had in his possession as
a precious souvenir of that time a duet arrangement of Mozart's Symphony in
G minor, made by Danzi and written out in his own hand.
It was during his time in Stuttgart that Danzi's friendship with Carl
Maria von Weber began. He performed the latter's opera Abu Hassan and
gave him moral and practical support. Weber's musical correspondence with Danzi
demonstrates his respect for his older friend. On 15th June 1806 a comical
recitative for The Honourable Herr Kapellmeister Danzi or, in June 1811,
"My dear Herr Kapellmeister, the undersigned (by name Weber) and a
Herr Bärmann, yesterday looked everywhere for you, to see you, to speak to you,
to hear you…"
In 1812, shortly after his appointment as composition teacher and
inspector of the newly established Art Institute in Waisenhaus, Danzi moved
again, now to the court at Karlsruhe. Thanks to his experience he succeeded in
raising the standard of the orchestra and, with his ability in opera, performed
there the great works of Mozart, Beethoven, Cherubini and, above all, Weber. He
died in 1826.
Danzi's compositions include operas, Singspiel, Italian stage-works for
his wife and his sister, oratorios, Masses, choruses, symphonies, concertante
works, concertos, string quartets, wind quintets, quartets with solo
instruments, songs, vocal exercises, sonatas, piano duet sonatas and other
works, all for practical use and performed and in many cases published in his
When the clarinettist Romeo Orsi appeared in Vienna in 1866, the critic
Hanslick wrote: "Get back in the orchestra! That is the place in which we
know how to value the players of clarinet, oboe and bassoon; we have had enough
of it, with these artists travelling round in hordes." By then the age of
wind virtuosi had been over for some forty years. The heyday of Fürstenau, Doppler,
Boehm, Lebrun, Besozzi, Hermstaedt, Bärmann, Ritter, Brandl, Braun, Romberg,
Pfeiffer, Eichner and Stich was at the beginning of the century. These were the
players that Danzi had or that he conducted in his orchestras, who had inspired
him to write various concertante works and concertos. In the programme register
of the Gewandhaus Orchestra it can be seen that the best year for wind
soloists, at least in Leipzig, was 1798. In nine concerts, wind-players on six
occasions were soloists, among them the bassoonist Berwald in a concerto by
Nevertheless, improvements to the piano and string instruments, the most
favoured instruments of the romantic sound-palette, and the appearance of
fascinating virtuosi such as Franz Liszt and Nicolò Paganini, led to the
neglect of wind soloists and from about 1830 they largely disappeared from
concert programmes. This again did not seem right to Hanslick and he expressed
himself as follows on the matter: "The terrible dominance of the piano,
though the most independent, yet also the most insistent instrument, sets us
today positively against the dethroned wind instruments."
Today wind soloists, favoured through the media, are again with us, as
soloists, in chamber music, in wind-ensemble music and in research into the
literature of the great classical period of such instruments. When I was a
student, up to 1958, Danzi was only known as the composer of wind quintets.
Today almost all his works for wind, concertos, concertante music, wind
sextets, bassoon quartets, with his string trios and duo sonatas with piano,
have been newly edited or performed. The work of this composer, who is to be
seen as an important link between classical and romantic, long forgotten as a
so-called Kleinmeister, has again been brought to the attention of the
public and his cultural legacy preserved. The present compact disc, therefore,
is not a mere record of the past but an example of living music that, while
admittedly not profound, is nevertheless charming and well composed.
Three of the four bassoon concertos included have already appeared in
print, while the Concerto in G minor has been prepared by Albrecht
Holder for publication by Accolade-Verlag. According to Joachim Veit, there is
in existence yet another Concerto in F major. The parts for a Concertonte
for two bassoons and a Concertino for bassoon seem to be lost.
The Concerto in G minor is in three movements, with a last
movement Polonaise. Danzi's manuscript of the solo and orchestral parts
are in the Fürstlich-Fürstenberg Library in Donaueschingen. The work was
probably written during Danzi's period in Stuttgart, perhaps for the bassoonist
Anton Romberg in Donaueschingen, and is scored for flute, pairs of oboes,
bassoons, horns and trumpets, trombone, timpani and strings.
The three-movement Concerto No. 1 in F major has a final movement
of variations on the Austrian folk-song A Schüsserl und a Reinderl, a
theme also used by Weber in his Variations for Viola and Orchestra,
J.49. I have added to the somewhat formulaic but highly virtuoso variations two
cadenzas. The concerto is scored for pairs of oboes and horns, with strings,
and was published in 1984 by Musikverlag Hans Sikorski in an edition by Joachim
Veit. It was performed, perhaps for the first time, on 20th January 1805 in Munich
with the soloist Franz Lang, a member of the Hofkapelle.
The Concerto in C major is also in three movements, with a final
rondo. The varied repetitions of the principal rondo theme are a model of the
technique of ornamentation. The concerto was published in 1982, in an edition
by Joachim Veit, by Verlag Thomi-Berg (Leuckart) and is scored for pairs of
oboes and horns, with strings. It was probably written for Munich. I have
provided a cadenza for the first movement.
The Concerto No. 2 in F major is the best known and was published
in 1963 in an edition by Dr Robert Münster by Verlag Thomi-Berg (Leuckartiana).
It is scored for flute, pairs of oboes and horns, trombone and strings. The
symphonic orchestral introduction, the changes between lyrical themes and
virtuoso passages, the variation of major and minor and the colourful harmonic
palette make the first movement a particularly fine example of Danzi's writing.
The second and third movements offer, as it were, a musical drama and in the Polonaise
provide the soloist with opportunities for technical display.
Translation: Keith Anderson
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DANZI: Bassoon Concertos