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Lickl: String Quartets No 1, 2 & 3 / Authentic Quartet

Release Date: 11/30/2004 
Label:  Hungaroton   Catalog #: 32220   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Georg Lickl
Performer:  Csilla VályiZsolt KalloBalázs BozzaiGábor Rác
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Authentic String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 15 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The Authentic Quartet uses period instruments tuned to A=430 hz. They are experienced Hungarian musicians who came together to play classical string quartets in 2002. They play well and are beautifully recorded. This is attractive if you want to go beyond the Viennese mainstream.

-- American Record Guide


Johann George Lickl (1769–1843) is one of those fascinating cases of a composer that would elicit a “who?” today from nearly every classical-loving omnivore in existence, but in his day received excellent instruction, produced fine music, and ultimately nabbed himself a secure, respected position. His contemporaries regarded him as more than a lightweight, and if this album is
Read more anything to judge by, we should do so, too. Lickl was born in Korneuberg, Austria. Orphaned at an early age, he moved to Vienna in his midteens and studied music with both Haydn and Albrechtsberger. (How all this happened is never mentioned in the liner notes, which focus almost entirely on the contents of the release. In fact, I’m indebted to what little I know about Lickl’s life and am passing along to Grove.) Intriguingly, we also see him haunting the location of Mozart’s last great popular success; for Lickl contributed numerous Singspiel scores to Schikaneder’s Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden, starting in 1793. Church music was apparently a preoccupation of his, however; and in 1804, he composed masses for both Maria Theresa and that Princess Esterházy to whom we owe thanks for Haydn’s late masses. Lickl’s great career move occurred a year later (according to Grove; three years later, according to the liner notes), when he secured the post of choirmaster to the Cathedral in Fünfkirchen, now Pécs, Hungary. He continued at the post for more than a quarter of a century, and took a prominent role in the musical life of this intellectually stimulating and artistically active city. The liner notes state that Lickl composed “almost without exception” church music once he settled into his new post. (I admit I’m curious about those exceptions, which they don’t mention. Grove, on the other hand, states that during this period he wrote numerous piano compositions.) By contrast, the Viennese phase of his career included a wide range of secular works, among them, these three string quartets composed in the mid 1790s.

They are impressive works. Mozart is nowhere evident, but that’s hardly surprising, as Mozart frequently wrote above the heads of all but the most discriminating listeners and performers until the last years of his life; and Lickl knew how to be popular. But there’s enough internal evidence to suggest that the future Fünfkirchen choirmaster knew his Haydn, and probably the op. 64 quartets, at that. These are sophisticated works, especially adept at developing material.

Each quartet, too, exhibits its own character. The first quartet displays occasional archaisms: the first theme starts with a Baroque commonplace, while part of the menuet’s main theme (a violent, repeated figure against a harmonically static backdrop in the minor) brings Vivaldi to mind. The second quartet is the most conventional and gallant, much in the prevailing Gallic taste of the period for its melodic piquancy and simple accompaniment. The third is dramatic and forward-looking, as well as the most musically distinguished of the quartets. Consider, for instance, that most insignificant of movements (usually) where all but action in time is concerned, the finale. Lickl opens the finale to his third quartet with a masterstroke: four fugal entries on a weighty theme, followed by a unison launch into an entirely different theme, notable for its energy, passion, and harmonic audaciousness. The cleverly manipulated contrasts between intensive counterpoint and unison harmonies, and between the powerful first theme and a charmingly rustic second theme, leave a strong and lasting impression. Was Lickl perhaps showing what he could do for musical connoisseurs in this work? It’s certainly reason enough to search archives in Vienna and Pécs for further music by this composer.

The performances by the Authentic Quartet (all other pretenders to the throne of authenticity take note!) are self-willed. Granted, vibrato wasn’t a feature in string performances of the 1790s. Granted, too, some degree of decoration was to be expected on the melodic line. But was there an expectation that musicians would perform some passages accurately, while others, more difficult, involve different tuning systems or scraping at the start of each note? If some movements could tolerate (assuming the Authentic Quartet is any judge) a considerable degree of stealing time across the bar, why are others bound so stiffly to the beat that elaborate embellishment comes off sounding like a slurred scramble? In short, for all their sense of genuine ensemble and real interpretative value, these musicians often seems arbitrary and technically limited rather than scholarly.

The engineering is excellent, rich and close, bringing out the darkly muted colors of the period instruments. Despite my reservations regarding the technical expertise of these musicians, I’d still give this CD an endorsement. Not a ringing one, but Lickl’s music is definitely worth knowing. It’s a cut above many of the Bohemian and Austro-Hungarian composers who were operating at the time. Papa Haydn would not have been displeased.

-- Barry Brenesal, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Quartet for Strings no 1 in D minor by Johann Georg Lickl
Performer:  Csilla Vályi (Cello), Zsolt Kallo (Violin), Balázs Bozzai (Violin),
Gábor Rác (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Authentic String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1797; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Hungaroton Studio 
Length: 23 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Notes: Hungaroton Studio (10/02/2003 - 10/04/2003) 
Quartet for Strings no 2 in G major by Johann Georg Lickl
Performer:  Gábor Rác (Viola), Balázs Bozzai (Violin), Zsolt Kallo (Violin),
Csilla Vályi (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Authentic String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1797; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Hungaroton Studio 
Length: 26 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Notes: Hungaroton Studio (10/02/2003 - 10/04/2003) 
Quartet for Strings no 3 in C minor by Johann Georg Lickl
Performer:  Zsolt Kallo (Violin), Csilla Vályi (Cello), Balázs Bozzai (Violin),
Gábor Rác (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Authentic String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1797; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Hungaroton Studio 
Length: 25 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Notes: Hungaroton Studio (10/02/2003 - 10/04/2003) 

Sound Samples

String Quartet No. 1 in D Minor: I. Allegro Spiritoso
String Quartet No. 1 in D Minor: II. Andante: Un poco adagio
String Quartet No. 1 in D Minor: III. Menuetto: Allegretto
String Quartet No. 1 in D Minor: IV. Allegro furioso
String Quartet No. 2 in G Major: I. Allegro giusto
String Quartet No. 2 in G Major: II. Andantino
String Quartet No. 2 in G Major: III. Menuetto: Allegretto
String Quartet No. 2 in G Major: IV. Rondo: Allegro
String Quartet No. 3 in C Minor: I. Allegro
String Quartet No. 3 in C Minor: II. Andante: Un poco adagio con variazioni
String Quartet No. 3 in C Minor: III. Menuetto: Allegretto
String Quartet No. 3 in C Minor: IV. Fuga: Allegro

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