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Titz: String Quartets for the Imperial Court of St. Petersburg / Hoffmeister Quartet

Release Date: 10/27/2009 
Label:  Profil   Catalog #: 9046   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Anton Ferdinand Titz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hoffmeister String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

TITZ String Quartets: in E?; in G; in F, in C Hoffmeister Qrt (period instruments) PROFIL 9046 (76:02)

Imagine the most moving slow opening that could be written for string quartet. Imagine it caught in a rich, resonant acoustic and played so accurately and beautifully that you’d never know there is an original-instrument quartet at work. Even if you succeed invoking that aural image, chances are that the String Quartet in E? (1781, No. 6) by Anton Ferdinand Titz (1742–1810) will exceed your expectations. The Hoffmeister Read more Quartett plays four of this largely unknown composer and violinist’s quartets with the kind of passion and skill that they need and deserve. (Incidentally that’s not the norm; I remember in particular the very interesting quartets by Joseph Wölfl from around the same time—let down by a shoddy HIP group’s playing.) There is even a sense of a sacred halo around the music, though that probably has more to do with the acoustic of the church these quartets were recorded in. The glow thus bestowed on the music strikes me as appropriate, especially since the players are recorded closely enough that no details are lost.

It is the Hoffmeister Quartett’s commitment to these A. F. Titz works from his time at the Russian Court of Catherine the Great and Czar Alexander I that makes this disc great, even where the music can’t quite uphold the promise of its opening lines. The composer himself left more music—especially chamber music—than he did biographical material. He was presumably born in Nuremberg; as an orphan he grew up with relatives. In his twenties, he moved to Vienna where he, again presumably, met Gluck, who got him a position in the opera orchestra. When a Russian magistrate heard his playing—perhaps at one of Prince Lobkowitz’ musical happenings—the musician, not quite 30, was invited to the court in St. Petersburg, where he was employed and would stay for the rest of his life. That part at least is known for sure. We also know that Louis Spohr met Titz in 1802/03 and commented very favorably on his compositional genius, less favorably on his old-fashioned violin playing, and with slight irritation about his confused state of mind, which manifested itself in nonsensical speeches or prolonged terms of silence. Interesting also is a comment in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung from a few years later about Titz as the unsurpassed master of the Adagio. If you listen to the two adagios on this disc, that statement makes perfect sense.

Twelve quartets of the composer survive: the six “Golizyn” quartets from 1781 (two of which are on this compilation); three “Alexander I” quartets from 1802; and three “Teplow” quartets from 1808. Of some of these works, the very substantial C-Major “Teplow” Quartet for example, complete scores were only discovered within the last few years. (The Hoffmeister Quartett’s performance is a world premiere recording, a fact that the understated design of the Profil release mentions in the small print of the informative liner notes, not plastered across the cover.) That late quartet incorporates Russian folk music influences to an extent that even the untrained ear can detect a musical accent well east of Vienna. Just a few repeat listening sessions leave me with the indelible impression that we are dealing with some of the most agreeable music of its kind and of its time—all the more notable given the truly great string quartets that have been written and published by his much more famous contemporaries.

This is Volume 2 in what should be a series of three discs. I, for one, can’t wait to get my hands on more Titz. I only fear that in English speaking parts of the world he might always remain the butt (as it were) of a lot of inappropriate jokes.

FANFARE: Jens F. Laurson
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Works on This Recording

Quartet for Strings in E flat major, Op. 1 no 6 by Anton Ferdinand Titz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hoffmeister String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1781 
Length: 16 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Quartet for Strings in G major, Op. 1 no 3 by Anton Ferdinand Titz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hoffmeister String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1781 
Length: 9 Minutes 24 Secs. 
Quartet for Strings in F major by Anton Ferdinand Titz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hoffmeister String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1802 
Quartet for Strings in C major by Anton Ferdinand Titz
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hoffmeister String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: By 1808 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 First foray into String Quartets July 10, 2014 By A. Smith (Dunedin, Otago) See All My Reviews "WOW what have I been missing for 60+ years. very fine music just discovered, played by the best Quartet in Europe (and possibly anywhere) beautiful music & sound of period instruments on a label unknown here in NZ." Report Abuse
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