Dotzauer – Chamber Music for Strings

Friedrich Dotzauer (1783-1860)
String Quintet in D minor, Op. 134
Canon in G major for 2 violins
Six Pieces for 3 Cellos, Op. 104
Three Etudes for Cello Solo (Op. 155 No. 2; Op. 54 No. 6; Op. 158 No. 2)
Quartet in F major for Cello Obbligato, 2 Violins and Viola, Op. 64

L’Archibudelli & Smithsonian Chamber Players
Vera Beths, violin
Jody Gatwood, violin
Lisa Rautenberg, viola
Anner Bylsma, cello
Kenneth Slowik, cello
Steven Doane, cello

 (1994) – TT 73:56


From the Weber-Onslow-Spohr Axis – Melodious, Virtuosic, and Fresh

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In a nutshell:
• Dotzauer was a cellist-composer of some renown in the 19th century and treats his instrument with partiality, much like Spohr and the violin. His style is pre-Romantic and echoes the sound of Weber, Spohr, and Onslow but with ample counterpoint.
• String Quintet in D minor, Op. 134 (1835) is scored for 2 violins, viola, and 2 cellos and exudes memorable content, Baroque-like sequences, and imitative counterpoint in a dramatic panoply befitting the key of D minor.
• Quartet in F major for cello obbligato, 2 violins and viola, Op. 64 (1824) features a vigorous cello part and toe-tapping energy.
• Six Pieces for 3 Cellos, Op. 104 (1829) are of high caliber and noble purpose. There’s a wistful “Andante” of real beauty, an elegantly polyphonic “Pastorale,” a “Scherzo” with inventive use of harmonics, a profound and rustic “Adagio-Allegro,” an “Andante maestoso” reminiscent of Mozart’s “Non piu andrai,” and a “Larghetto” that evokes the pathos of Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater.”
• Three Etudes for cello solo are brilliant and intense. Most arresting is the “Allegro” in A minor op. 155, no. 2, which sounds like a mixture of guitar shredding and Flight of the Bumblebee owing to its streams of low-register 16ths.
• L’Archibudelli & Smithsonian Chamber Players offer a sumptuous blend of beautiful stringed instruments. Anner Bylsma (cello) steals the show with his virtuosity and clean, effortless performances.
• Recorded sound leaves nothing to be desired.


Friedrich Dotzauer (1783-1860) remains a household name for cellists who still play his many pedagogical works, but for most of us, he will be a nobody. This progenitor of the “Dresden school” taught such cellists as Friedrich August Kummer, who passed on Dotzauer’s teachings to the great Bernhard Cossmann. According to the liner notes and other sources, Dotzauer was recognized as an important composer for his instrument, but apart from this release by Sony, none of his works (extending to op. 183) are recorded. Where are the enterprising cellists and record labels? Just from listening to this small sample of his output, I hear a gifted melodist and contrapuntalist with a talent for part-writing. One reviewer in 1830 noted, “Characteristic of Dotzauer’s compositional style is his predilection for a rigorous thematic development…” That is true and most salient in one sonata-allegro that embarks on a fugue for its development section.

Dotzauer composed over 20 string quartets, but just one string quintet. His D minor, Op. 134 (1835) opens with a serious and dramatic “Allegro” notable for its sequences and profusely contrapuntal makeup, culminating in a full-blown fugue in the development. The ensuing “Menuetto” has a memorable theme with quirky accents and chromatic figures resembling Onslow. Considerable lyricism envelops the “Poco adagio,” which also exploits pizzicato in interesting ways. Drama resumes in the “Finale,” a dark-hued and striving piece full of vivacious cello patter and rhythmic pep. There’s nothing stale or pedestrian in Dotzauer’s part-writing. This is true also in the Quartet for cello obbligato, 2 violins and viola op. 64 (1824). Despite its title, the cello is rather integral to the texture. It fulfills a soloist role in the propulsive “Allegro” and “Finale,” where florid filigree and exciting runs are common. The middle movements, a “Larghetto” and “Minuetto,” are testament to Dotzauer’s fluency with lavish, expressive harmony in the former and a subtle use of harmonics in the latter. Charming melodies and rhythms are plentiful throughout.

The Six Pieces for 3 Cellos, Op. 104 (1829) are well-wrought and consistently high in quality. Few would balk at the chance to hear three cellos immersed in a rich dialogue and these pieces never disappoint. Each is a jewel and demonstrates a master’s understanding of the cello. Even with three going at once, they have distinctive lines and character. There’s a wistful “Andante” of real beauty, an elegantly polyphonic “Pastorale,” and a “Scherzo” with inventive use of harmonics and irresistible tunes. The “Adagio-Allegro” juxtaposes a lofty and chromatic section with lively rustic passages. I was reminded of Mozart’s “Non piu andrai” in the “Andante maestoso,” which has a similar rhythm, plus an unusual walking bass line in pizzicato. This same pizzicato bass line is employed in the magnificent “Larghetto,” which resembles Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater” to some extent and aims for expressive power and neo-Baroque melancholy.

The Three Etudes for cello solo are taken from various opuses. Each one is a tour-de-force and begs the question, why aren’t more cellists recording Dotzauer’s etudes? The “Allegro” in A minor, Op. 155, no. 2 sounds like a mixture of guitar shredding and Flight of the Bumblebee with its torrent of low-register 16ths whizzing by. The “Allegro non troppo” in B-flat major op. 54, no. 6 is a pleasing array of rising and falling patterns surrounding a main melodic line. The “Presto” in D major op. 158 no. 2 is an arpeggiated study in a dignified vein, redolent of the Baroque masters. Rarely have I heard such a gathering of beautiful stringed instruments like the L’Archibudelli & Smithsonian Chamber Players. The quality of tone and gorgeous blend are impressive. Naturally, Anner Bylsma steals the show with his virtuosity and clean, effortless performances. Recorded sound leaves nothing to be desired.

  hex-icon
~Hexameron


Friedrich-Dotzauer
Dotzauer – Works & Recordings
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