Notes and Editorial Reviews
(Wilhelm) Bernhard Molique (1802?1869) was a violin prodigy who studied briefly with Ludwig Spohr. One of the most famous concert violinists of his day, Molique served as a concertmaster in Munich and Stuttgart and toured widely as a soloist. Following a series of concerts in London, he settled there in 1849. The London success of his oratorio
led to Molique?s appointment in 1861 as professor of composition at the Royal Academy. His compositional output includes two masses, one symphony, six violin concertos, and a large number of chamber works.
Discovering these two
string quartets by Molique (he wrote a total of seven) is a little like stumbling across a Nehru jacket in mint condition hidden away in your uncle?s attic. While the tailoring may be impeccable, it?s hard to overlook the absence of a collar, which doomed that species of apparel to little more than a passing fad. In like fashion, Molique?s op. 18 string quartets are exceedingly well-tailored works that lack the musical collar of originality. Molique was much inspired by Spohr in the writing of his violin concertos, but his quartets are clearly more indebted to early Beethoven. It?s surely no accident that these works share the same opus number as Beethoven?s initial works in the genre, and the first quartet is even written in the key of F, the same as Beethoven?s op. 18/1. Here and there, some whiffs of Mendelssohn can be detected, especially in the third movement of the second quartet. Molique distributes the parts very evenly among the four fiddles, and there is no denying the directness and charm of his melodic developments. But what was original and striking in Beethoven?s earliest quartet efforts seems a bit old hat by 1834, when Molique?s less inventive imitations were published. However, there is certainly nothing to criticize in these renderings by the Mannheim String Quartet: they play with great polish and earnest enthusiasm, and their recorded sound is excellent.
This disc will be of greatest interest to those bent on exploring the more obscure byways of German chamber music. Recommended to those so inclined.
FANFARE: Jeffrey J. Lipscomb
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