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. 2

Antoine-Joseph Reicha: Quintet in Eb Major: Op. 88, No. 2
Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, and Bassoon

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Antoine-Joseph Reicha (1770-1836) published this work, the second of his Six Quintuors Op. 88, with the House of Simrock in 1818, the plate number being 1536. Nikolaus Simrock indicates that this is Quintet No. 2 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 Bb, and horn crooked in Eb 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 quintet is the most famous of all of the Reicha 24 Wind Quintets. Syncopation abounds throughout the first movement as do military motives, and the ensemble roulades which serve as closing themes are remarkable; these are the concepts which might have something to do with this quintet's universal appeal. Reicha must have thought highly of this quintet, for in his Romantic  24th and final quintet in Bb major (Op. 100, No. 6) he begins  with an unaccompanied bassoon solo which is later harmonized in a manner similar to the work at hand, perhaps as a reminiscence of the success earlier work in the Classical Style.

Seemingly set in sonata form with a very short introduction, one immediately notices that repeat marks are lacking from the exposition. The 'development', which starts in the tonic, introduces a distinctly military theme [Theme 5]; it has the feel of a trio with a capital T. Indeed, two trios stand at the head of this section, the second being Theme 6. Both of the trios are played low: clarinet, horn, and bassoon, and then repeated high: flute, oboe, and clarinet. The only other major thematic material heard in this section is Theme 2 and there is no actual development here. The recapitulation is fairly straightfiorward, but Theme 2 is deleted since it had figured in the central section of the work. The latter, lacking development, causes this movement to be demoted into the classification of ternary from, unusual in chamber music of the day.  Perhaps Reicha actually composed this quintet before Quintet No. 1, since that work contains a first-class sonata form as its first movement.

In comparison to the first movements in the quintets of Opp. 91, 99, and 100, this is a short initial movement indeed. After the introduction, the bassoonist should consider playing a cadenza which would lead smoothly into Theme 1.

Second Movement
The Menuetto is found here in the second position, rather than as the standard third movement. It is not a scherzo like the majority of Reicha’s movements in this style. Perhaps it dates from an earlier period than the first movement; indeed, perhaps it predates the entire series of 24 quintets by several years. The overall layout consists of two Trios (the first in the dominant) surrounded by the Menuetto proper. Both Trios and the Menuetto are set in rounded binary form. The final appearance of the Menuetto is modified and a short coda is appended.

Third Movement
The slow movement is located after the Menuetto; Reicha’s reasoning for this placement is not clear. Its body is a charming rondeau set in the dominant; there are two couplets.  The composer indicates that the fascinating fugal couplet may be cut at the performers’ discretion. Perhaps Vogt’s quintet thought it to be a bit too much in the context of this movement, even though it came from a master of counterpoint.

Fourth Movement
Reicha provides a sonata form in 6/8 for the finale of this famous quintet. There are three primary themes in the exposition. The closing theme attached to Theme 2 adds a fascinating descant in diminution during its repeat.  There is no development section and there is not any significant development during the recapitulation. On the other hand, Reicha’s clever use of double counterpoint for Closing Theme 2, which we get to hear twice during the recapitulation, more than makes up for the lack of this time-honored procedure.
In the later quintets (Opp. 91, 99, and 100) all of which were composed under the influence of the Early Romantic Movement, it should be noted that there are but two rondeau finales, and they appear in Op. 91, Nos. 1 and 3. For the remainder of these rather weighty works, Reicha utilizes sonata form for the finale, but most are far more complex than the style found in the present quintet, primarily because they utilize development during the recapitulation.

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