Paul Wranitzky

Paul Wranitzky (1756-1808)

Nationality: Moravian | Czech
Born: December 30, 1756, Nová Říše, Moravia Died: September 29, 1808, Vienna (age 51)

String Quartet in C major, Op. 23, No. 1

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
I. Allegro con spirito
II. Adagio
III. Menuetto. Un poco Allegretto - Trio
IV. Allegro scherzo
Published: 1793 (age 36-37)
From Edition Silvertrust

Paul Wranitzky's String Quartet in C Major, Op.23 No.1, was the first of a set of six commissioned by the cello-playing King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm II. The same King for whom Mozart and Haydn wrote quartets and Beethoven composed his Op.5 cello sonatas. The Op.23 Quartets date from 1793 and were first published by André in Offenbach. The cello parts to these quartets, like those of the quartets which Mozart and Haydn wrote for the King, are more prominent than was normal for that period. While Haydn and Mozart raised the cello to an almost equal voice within the quartet, they avoided giving it virtuoso solo passages. Wranitzky, however, perhaps because he never really abandoned the concertante style of composition, did in fact write such solos which can be found in all six of his Op.23. The quartet follows the general pattern established by Haydn--Fast, Slow, Minuet and Fast. The opening Allegro con spirito can perhaps be styled as a perfect example of the Viennese classical concertante quartet of the late 18th century. With extensive running solo passages for each voice the music moves forward effortlessly. A lovely Adagio follows. The third movement, Menuetto, un poco allegretto, is rather unusual with the cello and viola playing continuous triplets beginning in their lowest register and proceeding upwards against the two violins with a more sustained theme. In the trio section, the cello is taken from its depths to the heights with a running 8th part against a chirpy violin melody. A buoyant Allegro scherzo finishes off this fine work.

Paul Wranitzky (1756-1808) (Pavel Vranický in the Czech form) was born in the town Nová Ríše (then Neureisch) in Moravia. At age 20, like so many other Czech composers of that period, he moved to Vienna to seek out opportunities within the Austrian imperial capital. Wranitzky played a prominent role in the musical life of Vienna. He was on friendly terms and highly respected by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven who preferred him as the conductor of their new works. Wranitzky was, as so many of his contemporaries, a prolific composer. His chamber works number over 100. Although some scholars believe that Wranitzky studied with Haydn, there is no proof of this. But there can be no question that he studied and was influenced by Haydn’s quartets. Like Haydn, Wranitzky’s quartet writing went through many stages of development beginning with the pre-classical and evolving to the finished sonata form of the late Vienna Classics. The majority of Wranitzky’s quartets are set in the three-movement format of the Parisian quatour concertant. In these works he explored the emerging Romantic style with (for the time) daring harmonic progressions, theatrical gestures, and virtuoso display.

Writing about Wranitzky's chamber music in the last part of the 19th century, the famous French critic and musicologist Fetis recalled:

“The music of Wranitzky was in fashion when it was new because of his natural melodies and brilliant style . . . I recall that, in my youth, his works held up very well in comparison with those of Haydn. Their premature abandonment of today has been for me a source of astonishment.”

© Edition Silvertrust. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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