Adalbert Gyrowetz, String Quartet in D Major, Op.13 No.1

Adalbert Gyrowetz To paraphrase Bruce Lamott, Adalbert Gyrowetz (1763-1850) was the "Zelig" of music history. Like the lead character of Woody Allen's movie Zelig, Gyrowetz was everywhere and knew everyone worth knowing. He was born in the Bohemian town Budweis, then part of the Austrian Habsburg empire and today known as Budějovice in the Czech Republic. He is sometimes, though not often, known by the Czech form of his name Vojtěch Jírovec. He studied violin and voice with his father, a choirmaster. Gyrowetz traveled throughout Europe, residing for periods in Vienna, Paris, London, Rome, Naples and several other major European cities. Among his friends and acquaintances were Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Goethe and Napoleon to name but a few. His style closely resembles that of Haydn and several of his symphonies were published under Haydn's name by unscrupulous publishers trying to make an extra buck. Mozart thought enough of Gyrowetz's symphonies to perform several of them at concerts in Vienna. Gyrowetz, like most of his contemporaries, was a prolific composer writing some 400 works, among them 60 symphonies, and hundreds of chamber works including approximately 60 string quartets. While today, he has been forgotten and his music consigned to oblivion, this was not always the case. A close friend of both Haydn and Beethoven--he was a pallbearer at Ludwig's funeral--his music was held in respect and frequently performed on the same programs with theirs throughout Europe and even in North America.

The String Quartet in D Major, Op.13 No.1 is the first of a set of three dating from 1796. Like several of his contemporaries such as Boccherini and Pleyel, his works were quite popular in his day and were published by different publishers in different countries and were often given different opus numbers. For example, the opus 13 quartets were originally published by the famous firm of Artaria in Vienna as his Op.13. However, when Pleyel published them in Paris, he gave them the opus number of 25. Several other firms in England and Germany also got into the act, no doubt is because of the excellence of the works. This in and of itself is an indication of the high regard in which they held.

The opening movement marked Allegro begins with a rather pretty, genial Haydnesque tune. However, not long thereafter, a section reminiscent of a Mozartean opera overture takes over. The two are interspersed with great expertise. Each of the voices are given a chance to shine. The second movement is actually two movements in one. It begins and ends with a dreamy Larghetto after which a lyrical but somewhat operatic section leads to a lively Allegretto. The Larghetto then reappears to end the movement. The finale, Allegretto, has a march-like quality because of its rhythm and the way it is accented. A smoother section follows before the march reappears at a faster tempo adding considerable excitement.

This quartet is not only historically important because it sheds light on what other then important composers were doing at the time in Vienna (Beethoven had yet to write a quartet, Haydn was writing his Op.74) but also because it is pleasing to play and hear. And this set of quartets is especially noteworthy in that many elements found here appear shortly thereafter in Beethoven's Op.18 quartets. Surely this is no accident and something for which Gyrowetz has not been given the credit he deserves. We have reprinted the Pleyel edition and though it is nothing like a modern edition it is quite readable. We are often asked why we do not just make a modern edition of deserving works, and certainly, this is one. The answer in a word is cost. It is very expensive to do this and where the older edition is readable, we feel it serves both the revival of the music as well as the pocketbooks of musicians to make the older edition available.

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