The Opus 88 Wind Quintets of Antoine Reicha

Scores and Parts Created from the Early 19th-Century Sources
Charles-David Lehrer, General Editor

Opus 88 - No. 1

Antoine-Joseph Reicha: Quintet in E Minor: Op. 88, No. 1
Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, and Bassoon

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Antoine-Joseph Reicha (1770-1836) published this work, the first of his Six Quintuors Op. 88, with the House of Simrock in 1818, the plate number being 1532. Nikolaus Simrock indicates that this is Quintet No. 1 in his series. The quintets themselves are entitled in Italian (Quintetto) within the parts, and in French (Quintuors) on the Frontispiece.

The instruments are given French names on the frontispiece: flûte, hautbois, clarinette, cor and bassoon; but again, Italian pervades the actual parts: flauto (traverso), oboe, clarinetto, corno, and fagotto. There is no score. Clarinet in C, and horn crooked in E and (for the slow movement) in G, are specified for this work; but throughout Reicha’s 24 quintets the clarinetist will need  Bb and A clarinets in addition to the C instrument, while the hand-horn player will use the following crooks: D, E, Eb, F, and G. I have supplied alternatives for the clarinet in C and made special parts for the horn to replace the multiplicity of crooks which would have involved transposition at sight by the modern F horn player.

The Op. 88 Quintuors are set in the following keys:

No. 1 Mi mineur
No. 2 Mi bémol [majeur]
No. 3 Sol majeur
No. 4 Ré mineur
No. 5 Si bémol [majeur]
No. 6 Fa majeur

In the preface, which is signed by the five members of the original group which played these quintets, it is made clear that these wind players sought, through performing Reicha’s works, to remedy the overwhelming interest awarded to string instruments in chamber music of the day, at the expense of wind ensembles.

The original quintet for which this work was composed consisted of the following members:

Joseph Guillou (1787-1853) flute
Gustave Vogt (1781-1870) oboe
Jacques-Jules Bouffil (1783-?) clarinet
Louis-François Dauprat (1781-1868) horn
One Monsieur Henry was the bassoonist in the ensemble.

First Movement
This movement initiates the first of Reicha’s 24 famous wind quintets. Two things are immediately noticeable: the movement lacks the difficult passage work found in most of the initial movements of the later quintets; and the horn part has no key signature. As to the latter which is set in C minor for horn in E, Reicha simply adds the Bb’s, Eb’s, and Ab’s as if they were accidentals. This follows early practice, for horns were originally notated only in C major.

A rather short ‘Introductione’ Andante in 4/4, based on the opening motive of the Tuba mirum from the Dies Irae of Mozart's Requiem Mass, leads to a sonata form proceeding in¾.  The development in this movement is masterful: the three motives comprising the first closing theme attached to Theme 2 of the exposition are maniplulated in a most-decisive manner to produce tremendous tension. An interesting surprise occurs in the recapitulation: of the two primary themes, Theme 2 does not return in full; instead its primary motive is utilized as transitional material which is placed between two of the closing themes associated with it in the exposition. Reicha changes key signature during the recapitulation on two occasions when the mode moves from E minor, the tonic, to E major.

At this point, there is little indication that the master would soon embrace the ideals of Early Romanticism spreading throughout Europe.

Second Movement
The slow movement, set in the relative major, is a wonderful set of variations based upon a 20-measure tune. There are 6 variations in all, in which the thematic material is distributed in a rather homogeneous manner, rather than being assigned to just one specific instrument per variation.

Third Movement
The layout of this miniature and rather bucolic scherzo is as follows: Menuetto-Trio I-Trio II;  Menuetto-Trio II-Trio I. The Menuetto proper is laid out in rounded binary form, as are both of the back-to-back Trios which are placed in the parallel major. The da capo of the Menuetto is written out in full, but without repeats. After the Menuetto proper, the two Trios are presented in reverse order and with modifications in each.

Fourth Movement
This finale is set in rondeau-sonata form. For its first appearance, Theme 1 it is laid out as a rounded binary form with the usual repeat marks. Theme 2 is set in the parallel major with the appropriate key signature change. The development is given over to imitative counterpoint based upon Theme 1. The recapitulation begins with Theme 2; this is followed directly by the A section of Theme 1. A short coda based on motives derived from the two main themes brings the quintet to a satisfying close.

One might conclude in saying that this modest quintet gives but little indication of what is to come. It is clearly a Classical work of small dimensions, very unlike the quintets of Opp. 91, 99, and 100. To be sure, the finale with its imitatative counterpoint places it with the remainder of the Op. 88 quintets. But there is an important aspect of this work worth considering: during the time Reicha was living at the Court of the Öttingen-Wallersteins with his uncle Joseph, he would have been among the first to hear Franz Anton Rosetti’s groundbreaking Wind Quintet in Eb Major (c. 1780).  Perhaps the slow movement of Reicha’s Quintet in E Minor might actually date from the latter part of Reicha's Bonn years (1785-1794) when he could have first experimented with the new medium, utilizing hand horn of his good friend Nikolaus Simrock in place of the cor anglais found in the Rosetti work.

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