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Lesley Sheills

June 2003

Flute, violin, 2 violas and cello
Quintet in D major Op 41 No 2
Andreas Jakob Romberg
Edition HH 52061

On doing a little research into the famous musical name Romberg, it emerges that for a while Andreas Jakob was employed in the electoral orchestra in Bonn, which at the time counted Ludwig van Beethoven as one of its members. It is piquant to imagine the two of them sharing a lift to gigs, drinking in the bar at the interval and grumbling about the management. They even played together in a quartet.

Romberg (1767-1821) also made the acquaintance of Haydn during a visit to Vienna in 1796. A rich catalogue of works emerges from what must have been some remarkable musical experiences during his lifetime.

It would, on the face of it, seem to be an eccentric choice to include a second viola instead of the more usual second violin, but of course the extra viola counterbalances the clarity and brilliance of the flute, and gives a far more satisfying balance to the sound. It is worth remembering that in later string quintets, composers even doubled the cello (for example, in the Schubert Cello Quintet in C major).

Based on the common chord of the home key, the opening theme of the first movement is charming if not original, and the scurrying semiquaver scales in thirds which develop it are fun, but conventional for the period. The flute acts as an integrated part of the overall texture, as an alternative to the first violin, rather than as a solo instrument, but the part is no less interesting for that.

The following Minuet with Trio in the minor key opens, unusually, with a six-bar rather than the expected four-bar phrase. Here, the flute carries the greater part of the melody, whereas in the following Romanze, there is charming interplay between the two violas and a duet formed by the flute and violin. The final Rondo is a jolly canter in the uplifting home key of D major, and brings the whole piece to a bracing close.

I had not encountered Edition HH before, but I was impressed by the clarity of the print and overall presentation. The company appears to publish quite a few items of this and earlier periods, as well as contemporary music. I really enjoyed this charming piece by Romberg, and would warmly recommend it to anyone.

Leslie Sheills

We are grateful to the editor of Pan for permission to reproduce this review.
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