Carl Stamitz: Orchestral Quartets, Op. 14

Carl Stamitz: Orchestral Quartets, Op. 14

by Donald ArmstrongDonald Armstrong


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The potential buyer of this disc may well ask what in the world an orchestral quartet might be, and worse still, the booklet contains little in the way of enlightenment. Annotator and music editor Allan Badley explains that these energetic string works were published as suitable for either orchestral or quartet performance, but doesn't explain how the original publication designated the music. What does he mean when he writes that "only two of the quartets are specifically designated as 'orchestral' quartets"? Did the publication read "Quatuors pour l'orchestre"? We'll never know, but the performance by a moderate-sized string orchestra is effective. Whatever forces Carl Stamitz may have had in mind, he was here thinking musically in terms of the sound of the large and virtuosic Mannheim court orchestra for which he wrote many of his better-known symphonies. The music is festooned with examples of the famed "Mannheim rocket" figure and other effects that would lose a lot of their oomph if played by a mere quartet. Sample the string crescendo at the beginning of the short track 8, for example. The two "concertante quartets" on the album (tracks 4-8) are string pieces divided into solo and tutti passages; they don't have the logic of full-fledged symphonies concertantes, but they are attractive and graceful. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under Donald Armstrong has a flair for the Mannheim style, with crack, lively executions of the various orchestral moves and contrasts. They are not done justice, however, by the sound on this disc. Why do engineers choose churches for recordings of orchestral music? Works like these were not performed in stone churches, but in the halls and music rooms of aristocrats. In the event, the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Wellington, New Zealand, is an especially harsh and inhospitable environment for Stamitz's music, with an over-bright sound that picks up every collective rustle of the musicians' clothing.

Product Details

Release Date: 11/21/2006
Label: Naxos
UPC: 0747313267125
catalogNumber: 8557671
Rank: 161072


  1. Quartet for orchestra in F major, Op. 14 No. 4
  2. Concertante Quartet in B flat major, Op. 14 No. 5
  3. Quartet for orchestra in C major, Op. 14 No. 1

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