Notes and Editorial Reviews
Chances are you’ve never heard of Franz Xaver Gebel (1787-1843), but if you’re a fan of Beethoven, you’ll find yourself in familiar and friendly territory with these two string quartets. There’s an immediately ingratiating charm, an effervescent quality in the opening of the D major quartet (sound clip), that dispells any preconceived notion that this likely would be second-rate stuff not worth more than a few minutes’ listening. No, this definitely is first-rate stuff, the work of a composer with good ideas as well as the skill and imagination to realize them in truly idiomatic string quartet form.
Although born near Breslau and educated in Vienna, where he worked as a music director and composer, when he was 30 (in 1817)
Gebel left for Moscow, where he remained for the rest of his life. Accounts from the time suggest he was very popular there, as a teacher, composer, and sponsor of chamber music concerts, which apparently included quartets by Beethoven along with Gebel’s own works. His relocation to Moscow helps explain his modern obscurity—no one in his adopted city seemed to care about making sure his works were published and preserved—yet through the efforts of Gebel’s biographer, Ernst Stöckl, and others we have the two quartets featured on this recording, the D major quartet, which probably comes from Gebel’s years in Vienna, and the E-flat major, which is from his Moscow period.
Gebel’s several decades in Moscow also likely explains why his compositional style remains very much of an earlier era, why the similarity to Beethoven, especially in the E-flat quartet, even a decade or more after that composer’s death. And it’s interesting to note a little thematic gesture in the first movement of the D major work that bears a striking resemblance to one in Mozart’s Eine kleine nachtmusik. A coincidence, maybe; but maybe not. The performances are polished and stylish, the sound vibrant and engaging. A very pleasurable, and pleasantly surpring, hour of listening.
– ClassicsToday (David Vernier) Read less
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