Antoine Reicha's 24 Wind Quintets:
Introductory Commentary

by Charles-David Lehrer

© International Double Reed Society: Boulder, Colorado, USA - 2002


With the publication of the entirety of Antoine Reicha’s 24 Wind Quintets, I hope to fill a major void in the repertory of most oboists and bassoonists. While it is true that the majority of these fabulous works are available in a variety of modern publications, most are difficult to obtain and some are outrageously expensive, running between $50.00 and $100.00 for the score and parts of single quintets. In addition, there has never been a unified edition of these 24 works, only the haphazard issuing of individual items, some with scores, some without.

What is the reason for this indifference? Actually, the answers are simple: first of all, we no longer utilize the C clarinet for which much of this literature was composed, and secondly, modern horn players have to cope with tricky transpositions brought on by the use of the five crooks specified by Reicha for the hand horn of his day. Prior to the introduction of modern music processing programs such as Finale, it was quite difficult for editors to transpose the C clarinet part, and accuracy could not be assured. For many young clarinetists and horn players attempting the transpositions at sight, great complexities are to be encountered, resulting in the fact that many are discouraged from learning these essential repertory items.  In addition, most of Reicha’s Wind Quintets are exceptionally long, some taking as long as 45 minutes to perform; this is quite different form the usual 20th-Century quintet which runs about 20 minutes, the Schoenberg Quintet excepted; so, many woodwind quintets are put off by the length alone.

Insofar as a unified edition is concerned, it has not been practical to create a complete modern edition of Reicha’s 24 canonical quintets until now. Finally, in the 21st Century, we have the tools of modern technology to make full scores, to easily transpose the parts for the clarinet and horn, and to distribute these works inexpensively throughout the globe. Speaking from my own experience I would say that without my Sony Vaio Computer, the Finale Music Writing Program, my Kurzweil 2000 Keyboard and Hewlett-Packard Printer, and especially the Internet, such a project would have been insurmountable.

Initial inspiration for this undertaking came to me through Laila Storch and Earnest Harrison, both whose woodwind quintets at the University of Washington and at Louisiana State University respectively, had made attempts to read these works from the original publications. 

As I enter this new quest for musical information, I must acknowledge four persons who helped me make this project a reality for the International Double Reed Society:

Nancy Lehrer: Senior Architecht: JumpStart Wireless Corporation
Yoshi Ishikawa: IDRS On-Line Publications Editor
Louis Rosenblatt: Professor of Oboe, Temple University
Johan Eeckeloo: Librarian, Library Koninklijk Conservatorium, Brussels.

Concerning the Creation of the New Edition of the 24 Reicha Quintets

This is a practical edition. It is primarily directed towards performers, rather than music theorists or musicologists. Only publications contemporary with Reicha’s own lifespan were utilized as source material. That is to say, the published parts alone were utilized to create modern scores, for there were no published scores of these quintets made in the early 19th Century. Each part was played into a score-template which I created for Finale; and then, using the computer keyboard, these same parts were ‘cleaned up’ on the screen. To be sure, there were more than a few wrong notes and rests in the 19th-century parts, but the major inaccuracies lay with dynamics and articulation, which were quite haphazard. I have made every effort to reconstruct the text as I believed it was intended by the composer, but I have not compiled a detailed list of all of the items which had to be worked upon, as would be the case with a scholarly edition. Every movement of every quintet was checked via playback through the Kurzweil synthesizer for accuracy, and sound recordings were then made on CD to document this work. To make this edition user-friendly, all 192 of the original Finale files are being made available as .pdf files, so that anyone can print them from the site using Adobe's Acrobat, the latter of which can be downloaded from the Adobe site for free. In addition, a carefully thought out theoretical and historical description of the musical content of every movement in each quintet was created. My effort, therefore, is singular: I want these 24 works to become part of the standard repertory of chamber music. 

The scores themselves, maintain the original instruments, that is to say, with C, Bb, and A clarinets, and even more telling, with the hand horn parts as Reicha composed them including D, Eb, E, F, and G crooks. The extracted parts for the C clarinet and hand horn, have been transposed to suit the Bb clarinet, and the modern horn in F. The latter will often find itself quite low, actually in the trombone range, particularly when hand horn crooked in D was the original. Keeping with publishing tradition, I have also included the non-transposed hand horn parts. Players of the early clarinets can easily extract the C clarinet parts from the Finale files.

These quintets are quite lengthy, running anywhere from a half an hour to 45 minutes in playing time. That is to say, they are symphonic in their conception. Therefore, some movements, particularly the outer ones, contain as many as six pages, which will produce two page turns. On the 8 ½  x 11 paper utilized for the parts, this will require some preplanning by the performers. The scores, on the other hand, are all laid out in 8 ½ by 14 format, which is legal-size paper. I have purposely kept their reduction at a realistic size in order that these scores might be studied for their musical content. For a change, wind instrument players, taking upper level and graduate courses in Romantic Music Literature, now have the opportunity to analyze the complexities of Reicha’s structures, and, in particular, his outstanding approach to counterpoint. It is important to note that by 1820, when the six Op. 91 quintets were published, Reicha had become one of the first Romantic composers.

The Wind Quintet Legacy of Antoine-Joseph Reicha

Antoine-Joseph Reicha (1770-1836) one of the Paris Conservatoire's most respected 19th-century professors, was born Antonín Reicha in Prague during the year 1770. About the time he was ten, he went to Castle Harburg, near Ansbach, to live with his uncle, Josef Reicha, a prominent cellist and composer at the court of the Öttingen-Wallersteins. It was there that Antonín learned to play the flute, violin, and piano. In addition, and equally important for his future career, Reicha, who was Czech, was taught the German and French languages by his uncle and aunt respectively. 

Since the young Antonín Reicha came to live at the Öttingen-Wallerstein court shortly after Franz Anton Rosetti's Wind Quintet was composed there (sometime around 1780), one can only surmise that this groundbreaking work had a lasting affect upon the young man. In a word, its instrumentation is unique: a flute sits on top of one instrument each, extracted from a typical Harmonie-musik octet of the day which would have contained pairs of oboes, clarinets, horns, and bassoons, except that in this case, Rosetti had substituted cor anglais for horn. 

In 1785, Josef Reicha and his family moved to the Court of the Elector of Cologne in Bonn where Josef took up directorship of the Hofkapelle. This was an important position, for the Elector Maximilian Franz Habsburg, was the brother of the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II. By good fortune, Antonín obtained a position at court playing second flute in his uncle’s ensemble. Among his colleagues was a young violist named Ludwig van Beethoven! Even more important for Reicha, was the beginning of his lifelong friendship with the hand horn player, Nikolaus Simrock, who, as one of the early 19th-century's most important publishers, would print the first 18 of Reicha's 24 wind quintets.

During this time, young Antonín learned of Johann Sebastian Bach's keyboard works and possibly became acquainted with two major treatises on composition:  Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg's Abhandlung von der Fuge (1754) and Johann Philipp Kirnberger's Die Kunst des reines Satzes (1779).  In 1787 Reicha conducted his first symphony and his Scènes italiennes; two years later he began to attend Bonn University. Also, a friendship with the visiting Franz Joseph Haydn was formed during this time.

By 1795 Reicha was in Hamburg teaching piano, harmony, and composition. It was there that he read mathematics and philosophy and began to reflect seriously upon the pedagogy of composition. Also, his opera Godefroid de Montfort was mounted during this period.

In the year 1799, Reicha appeared in Paris for the first time. There he produced several of his Scenés italiennes and the symphonies, Op. 41 and Op. 42, which have the novel feature of thematically connected movements.

The year 1801 took him to Vienna, where friendships with Beethoven and Haydn were renewed. During his stay, Reicha came under the influence of the music of the Mannheimers and also that of Gluck, Haydn, and Mozart. He is known to have studied with Albrechtsberger and Salieri during this period and to have produced two operas, one especially for the Empress Maria Theresa. Between 1802 and 1804 Reicha's first historically important work appeared, a set of 57 piano variations entitled L'art de varier . Like J. S. Bach's Die Kunst der Fuge , it has strong pedagogical overtones.

Reicha's L'art de varier was followed by a cycle dedicated to Franz Joseph Haydn entitled Trente-six Fugues d'après un nouveau systême (1803). This set would have a far-reaching influence, especially on one of Reicha's most gifted students from the Parisian years, Hector Berlioz. Some of its ground-breaking features are:

  1. 'Answers' at unusual intervals
  2. Combined meters:
  3. Polymeter (in No. 30):

In addition, since Reicha felt that almost any kind of melody was suitable as a fugue subject, some very unusual shapes appear. Some even presage the style of many subjects found in the 20th century! During the same period, Reicha produced his Practische Beispiele (1803), 25 sight-reading compositions of extreme difficulty which stress forms and genres. Included are such new techniques as polytonality and polyrhythm.

In the year 1808 Reicha moved to Paris where he remained until his death in 1836. During those years, he produced several operas but none really captured the fancy of the Parisian public. By 1810, he began to compose the series of twenty-four wind quintets upon which his name as a composer rests at the present time.  

The actual composition of the 24 Quintets encompassed the years 1810-1820. One item from Op. 88 was heard at the Conservatoire in 1814; but 1815 saw the formation of the group listed below for the special purpose of performing Reicha’s Quintets at a series of subscription concerts. These were held in the foyer of the Théâtre Italien until 1819 when they ended. In 1821, Louis Spohr reported hearing a rehearsal of the Op. 100 quintets.

The first performers of the Reicha Quintets included the following artists:

Reicha’s quintets were published, without scores, as parts for flûte, hautbois, clarinette, cor, and basson in the following sequence:

Several publishing houses were involved in the printing and distribution of the 24 Reicha Quintets during the early 19th century. In Paris, Chez Boieldieu was most prominent. In Bonn & Cologne, Op. 88, Op. 91, and 99 were issued by Nikolaus Simrock. The latter was a good friend of Antoine Reicha and his uncle Joseph: the two of them had first made the acquaintance of Simrock during the years they spent at the Electoral Court in Bonn.  It is also known that the famous publishing house of Richault published the Op. 100.

In 1818, the House of Schott in Mainz began to issue the the 24 quintets. Certainly this edition would have been distributed by the Brussels satellite headed by Andreas and Johann Joseph Schott. It is from a copy of this version which now resides in Brussels the collection of the Library Koninklijk Conservatorium - Conservatoire Royal, that Reicha’s Op. 100 Quintets are being produced in the present edition for the IDRS. Photocopies of the remainder, Op. 88, Op. 91, and Op. 99, were provided by the same repository, but in the Simrock edition.  

Sporadic publication of Reicha’s quintets became the norm in the 20th century as witness the following:

  1. Edition Kneusslin, represented in the US by Peters, published editions of at least 13 of the 24 Reicha quintets. This firm seems to have been the only one to have taken this work seriously. These publications first appeared in 1956 and continued until 1990. 
  2. The House of Billaudot, controlling the old Costallat (ex-Simrock) plates of Op. 91, issued only No. 4 of Op. 91, which is what probably  kept Kneusslin from completing his publication of that opus. As one can see in the chart above, Kneusslin issued all but No. 4 in Op. 91.
  3. The most famous of all the Reicha Quintets, the ubiquitous Op. 88, No. 2 in Eb Major, was issued in a highly-truncated version by the house of Leuckart in 1937. The all-important imitative sections were completely removed throughout the composition. In the first movement, this defamation results in a sonata form which makes no sense at all. One company [perhaps Western International Music Co.] produced a fabulous edition from the original parts of this quintet, and I had the opportunity of playing the complete work from these parts during my years at UMass. Leuckart also issued Nos. 1 and 5 in the same Opus 88.
  4. Don Stewart edited No. 4 in the Op. 99, and Nos. 1, 2, 3,  4, 5, and 6 in the Op. 100. One item (Op. 100, No. 4) duplicates Kneusslin’s effort, but Stewart supplied his parts with scores, a novel idea. The Stewart editions are published by Trillenium Music Co.; International Music Corporation (IMC) issued the Op. 99, No. 4. 
  5. During 1978, SHV in Prague brought out three scores of Reicha quintets, but waited 10 years before making the parts available. These scores included Op. 88, No. 3 and Op. 91, Nos. 3 and 5.
  6. Musica Rara, usually standing at the forefront in the publication of first-class editions of chamber music, seemed to shy away this arena, producing editions of only Op. 91, No. 2 and Op. 99, No. 2.

During the years 1815 to 1817, at the very time the 24 Quintets were being composed, performed, and published, the complexities of double counterpoint engaged Reicha in the volume of Etudes, Op. 79, which includes 34 fugues with preludes. At this same time Reicha had been taking on, as composition students, a group of important professors at the Paris Conservatoire including the first four members of the wind quintet mentioned above. By the year 1818, his connections with those artists paid off, for he was appointed Professor of Counterpoint and Fugue at the Conservatoire.

The most brilliant among Reicha's treatises appeared in 1826 from the publishing house of Zetter & Cie. and is entitled Traité de Haute Composition Musicale. There are two volumes (parties):

1er Partie: 

Book I        Church music
Book II       Double Counterpoint
Book III      Canon

2ème Partie:

Book IV     Fugue: structure
Book V      Fugue: augmentation, diminution
Book VI     Form
Appendix    Essays of Reicha

A detailed review of this work has revealed that it deals in large part with fugal procedures in both the narrowest and broadest (genre fugué) senses. Reicha believed that fugue contained possibilities for the highest levels of musical expression, and in this regard he was reinforcing the path followed by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven in their string quartets. Unfortunately, neither Luigi Cherubini, Directeur of the Conservatoire, nor the otherwise brilliant François Joseph Fétis, agreed with Reicha and made life for him at the Conservatory most unpleasant. Despite this, the new treatise was read by a large number of composers; in 1832 under the title Vollständiges Lehrbuch , Carl Czerny published translations of the Traité de Haute Composition Musicale and Reicha's previous two treatises. Giacomo Meyerbeer, Robert Schumann and Bedrich Smetana are all known to have been acquainted with Reicha's treatises in one form or another.

Book VI of the the Traité de Haute Composition Musicale , the most important of the six books as regards understanding his 24 wind quintets, is concerned with Reicha's descriptions of the following musical structures in use during the early 19th century:

On page 237 of Book VI Reicha begins a discussion of the ideas exposition and développement; this is the first known usage of these now-famous terms. The overture to Mozart's opera La Nozze di Figaro is used to demonstrate these principles. After delineating nine major motives from Mozart's exposition, Reicha uses them to create several different development sections for the movement, which originally contained none at all.

Therefore, in Reicha’s 24 Quintets, one will find the majority of structures of Book VI described in his Traité de Haute Composition Musicale appearing as a matter of course. In addition, all should be prepared for a generous use of imitative counterpoint.

Charles-David Lehrer
Thousand Oaks, August 21, 2002

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