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Tomasini: String Quartets / Luigi Tomasini Quartet

Release Date: 03/30/2004 
Label:  Hungaroton   Catalog #: 32247   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Alois Luigi Tomasini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Luigi Tomasini Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 15 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Tomasini was born in Pesaro. We know nothing of his youth, but writers familiar with musical style have found elements in Tomasini’s music to indicate he might have studied with Tartini. On several occasions, he met Leopold Mozart (correspondence alludes to the fact that Tartini studied with him). When Haydn arrived at Esterháza, Tomasini was already first violinist in the orchestra and would soon become Konzertmeister, holding the chair until his death in 1808. Both men liked and respected each other; Haydn was the godfather for two of Tomasini’s children and dedicated several compositions to Tomasini, including his Violin Concerto in C. For his part, Tomasini frequently performed the music of Haydn on his concert tours across Read more Europe. As a composer, Tomasini left posterity a respectable musical legacy, including several string quartets and two violin concertos, the latter still awaiting a champion. While these works have been overlooked in the almost two centuries since Tomasini’s death, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are negligible. The quartets recorded here come from two contemporary sources. One of the cycles exists in manuscript and holds the traditional half-dozen works; the other was published in Vienna in the 1790s as Tomasini’s op. 8. Tomasini’s quartets are essentially lighter than those of Haydn, but are structurally sound, with commanding dramatic moments and the occasional pinch of Haydnesque humor.

The most interesting, though not the most substantial of the works recorded here, is the three-movement Quartet in D. It opens with an Allegro that, by way of its solo passages for the first violin and cello (no doubt written for the dedicatee of Haydn’s cello concertos, Anton Kraft), borders on a quatour concertante. Things remain interesting as the quartet moves forward: the odd finale is notable for unexpected shifts from major to minor, and Tomasini’s use of an A-B-A structure as opposed to the usual Rondo. At just over half an hour’s duration, the Quartet in B flat is the most expansive, with four movements of greater duration, a more complicated harmonic treatment, and again elements of the aforementioned quatour concertante. The Quartet in D Minor is the only surviving one by Tomasini in a minor key. Here the composer appears more concerned with motivic development than virtuosity. The finale is another quirky and unpredictable ride that combines elements of Hungarian folk music with forays into distant tonalities, what annotator Balázs Máté calls “gruesome modulations.”

The Luigi Tomasini Quartet is new to this writer; they’ve been around a few years and number among the most respected period-instrument quartets on the Continent. Known for specializing in quartets of the 18th century’s unknowns, the Tomasini have given world premieres of music by Anton Zimmermann, Franz Grill, Antal Csermák, and others. These texturally refined and well-managed performances are indeed models of their kind. The Tomasini Quartet approaches this music with vitality and affection, resulting in sessions that combine intensity and spontaneity—especially with regard to the witty moments—in a desirable manner. Further, one finds careful management of phrasing, exceptional momentum, an enviable diversity of hues, and surprising emotional and aural dynamics throughout.

Though never profound, this consistently attractive music will charm upon first hearing. It was wrought by a little-known master of the form and offered to posterity in presentations that will undoubtedly remain benchmarks for years to come.

Michael Carter, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

String Quartet in D major (Ko. 5) by Alois Luigi Tomasini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Luigi Tomasini Quartet
Date of Recording: 5/2003 
Venue:  Lutheran Church (Tordas, Hungary) 
Length: 19 Minutes 18 Secs. 
String Quartet in B flat major (Ko. 10) by Alois Luigi Tomasini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Luigi Tomasini Quartet
Date of Recording: 5/2003 
Venue:  Lutheran Church (Tordas, Hungary) 
Length: 31 Minutes 04 Secs. 
String Quartet in D minor (Ko. 11) by Alois Luigi Tomasini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Luigi Tomasini Quartet
Date of Recording: 5/2003 
Venue:  Lutheran Church (Tordas, Hungary) 
Length: 24 Minutes 47 Secs. 

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