Reicha – C Major Duo (Op 84 No 1)

Posted on June 16th, 2020 by

Anton Reicha- 12 Duos pour violon & Violoncello, precedes d’un petit Traite… Op. 84, Bk. 1 & 2. (Paris : Gambaro, [n.d.])Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin, Beate Altenburg-Cello

Duo No 1. C Major-Largo-Allegro non Troppo

 The first of this extraordinary cyce of duos is in many ways the simplest. Like the first of Reicha’s Op 48/49 set of six quartets, it is in C major. This enables Reicha to ‘ground’ his cycle in the extraordinarily voiced tonic chord (without the dominant( which ends the first movement-rooted in a tenth based on the lowest note of the cello-indeed, Reicha uses a variant of this chord, this time, with the dominant (G), allowed, to finish the final Allegro. 

The first movement, ‘Largo’ is musical simplicity itself-basically a prelude-a series of five phrases, which never really find their way away from the tonic, despite a number of vocal, cadenza-like excursions by the violin. The language is a deliberate throw-back, evoking the phenomenally successful ‘ Airs variés’  by Pierre Rode-the first of which had appeared in Paris in 1795. The string writing is the very epitome of the idealised lyricism sought by the disciples of the Viotti-Baillot, Rode, Kreutzer, and Levasseur. The second movement is likewise, built from the simplest procedures-a constant swapping of vocal and accompanying roles, using canons and imitation, but alluding to harmony, rather than ‘filling it out’-doublestopping is only used at three points at the movement. One might say that the sole purpose of writing like this was to allow great instruments to ‘ring’, and the bariolage and string crossing techniques in this movement certainly do that.  It was, after all, in Paris, in the hands of Viotti and his followers, that the ‘new voice’ of the modernised Stradivari was first heard. So hearing this duo, as here on two very finely voiced Stradivari instruments seems to make sense. Note that the second movement ends with a very Beethoven-ian device, device, a 14 bar ‘accompanied cadenza, followed by  a Haydn-esque false ending. 

The instruments in this recording:

Violin by Antonio Stradivari, Cremona, 1699, ‘Crespi’.
Cello by Antonio Stradivari, Cremona, 1709, ‘Markevitch’