Franz Tausch: Music for a Prussian Salon

Franz Tausch: Music for a Prussian Salon
Boxwood & Brass
Resonus RES10177. 72’53

With the subtitle of ‘Franz Tausch in Context’, this début recording by Boxwood & Brass explores the music of the clarinettist and composer Tausch as he moved from Mannheim to Munich and then to Berlin. His XIII Pièces en Quatuor for two clarinets, horn and bassoon was his most substantial chamber work, and is performed here complete, in two suites. Published in 1812, the pieces might have been intended for Taush’s own saloon concerts – they are clearly music to be listened to, rather than the mere background music of some of the harmoniemusik repertoire. This is the first time that they have been recorded complete, an important occasion for Tausch and Boxwood & Brass.

The twelve pieces are each about three to five minutes long, and explore a wide range of musical styles within the late 18th century idiom. Serious thought has gone into their composition – these are not empty exercises in note-spinning, but are deftly-worked musical miniatures of exceptional quality. The influence of the Mannheim court orchestra, where Tausch cut his musical teeth, is evident. The orchestras’ move to Berlin in 1778 was an important one for Tausch, exposing him to the further rigours of court life.

In between the two Tausch suites, Boxwood & Brass feature a predecessor and two successors of Tasch, starting with Johann Stamitz’s elegant Three Quartets for pairs of clarinets and horns. The founder of the Mannheim school and orchestral Konzertmeister from 1745-55, Stamitz was one of the first composers to write for this combination of instruments. One of the most interesting pieces on this CD is the Concert-Trio for clarinet, horn and bassoon by Tausch’s Finno-Swedphoto6.jpgish pupil Bernhard Henrik Crussell. Seemingly based on a selection of folk tunes, the virtuosic writing for all three instruments show the development in playing techniques in the years since Stamitz. Henrich Baermann, another pupil of Tasch, is represented by the sensuously elegiac Adagio from his clarinet Quintet, a piece earlier attributed to a youthful Wagner, on the basis of its musical quality. It is heard in a very effective arrangement by Robert Percival, Boxwood & Brass’s bassoonist. The unusual key of D flat major brings out some sensuous instrumental colours.

The repertoire of the various combinations of wind band are not as well known as they should be, which makes this recording a particularly valuable contribution to the world of music. The playing (from Emily Worthington & Fiona Mitchell, clarinet, Robert Percival, bassoon, Anneke Scott & Kate Goldsmith, natural horn) is outstanding, both technically and musically.

Further details and extracts can be heard here.

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