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Sheet Music Review

Lowri Blake

November/December 2006

Flute Quintet in E minor Op. 41 No. 1
Andreas jacob Romberg
score and parts
HH Edition (hh60.fsp), £12.50

Relatively small, with a distinguished editing team, HH Edition publishes predominantly baroque and early classical music, ranging from Dowland to Boccherini, alongside a cluster of contemporary composers. One of HH Editionsí earlier composers is Andreas Jacob Romberg, a violinist and fellow employee of Beethoven in the electoral court orchestra of Bonn in the 1780s. The two composersí paths may well have crossed again some years later in Vienna, where they both encountered Haydn, Rombergís conservative compositional style lacks the originality of his more famous contemporaries, but it is well worth investigating, not least since his output provides some welcome additional chamber repertoire for flute and strings.

Romberg (not to be confused with his composer- cellist cousin Bernhard Romberg, born the same year) composed Three Flute Quintets, which were published as Op.41 in Paris in 1811. All three are presented in HH Editionís catalogue, edited by Jennifer Caesar. Looking at the first quintet in E minor, the music is lightweight and conversational. There is nothing to startle here: the phrasing is always elegant and expressive, and at times, rather delightful. Whatís unusual about the scoring is the partnership between the flute and violin, as though two violins in a string quartet, accompanied here by two violas and cello. And it really is an accompaniment for the rather long-suffering violists, who chug away determinedly with only rare glimpses of melody, while the flute and violin have a ball upstairs. Down below, the cellist actually fares very much better than the violas, with attractive imitation and plenty of playful runs Ė in fact, the cello sets the whole piece in motion with a lifting motif, which the flute then picks up and embellishes. The violin then joins in for some lively discussion. The second movementís minuet has two trios, one for flute displays, the other a conversation for flute and violin. A short, vivacious finale is preceded by a mellifluous Larghetto where, tucked away in the middle is, most surprisingly, a robust rendition of the British national anthem! Evidently a popular ditty of the day.

Romberg, like Mozart before him in his string quintets, knew how well the rich texture of two violas would complement the brighter tones of violin or flute. Supported by violists who donít mind being mere padding to the more showy antics of the outer parts, flautists, in particular, should greatly enjoy this quintet. Technically, there are no great hurdles for the players; itís accessible to most amateurs and competent students. Thereís much to enjoy in Rombergís music. Top notch itís not, but it was greatly admired in his day, and rightly so Ė the quintet is a pleasure to play and to listen to.

Lowri Blake

We are grateful to the proprietor of Sheet Music Review for permission to reproduce this review.
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