Obscure Music Monday: Farrenc's Nonet
Louise Farrenc (May 31, 1804 - Sept. 15, 1875) was a French pianist, teacher, and composer. Born in Paris, she started the piano at an early age, and later on also showed a knack for composition. At the age of fifteen, her parents let her study composition with Anton Reicha at the Paris Conservatory. Later on she embarked upon a successful concert career, started a publishing house with her husband, and eventually became a Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatory. As a composer, Farrenc first started out writing solely for the piano, for which she got much praise, including from Robert Schumann. Later on she started writing chamber music, and that genre is considered by many to be some of her best.
Farrenc's Nonet was written around 1849, and had its premiere in 1850, with the famous violinist Joseph Joachim playing that concert. The first movement Adagio—Allegro, opens with a regal theme. When the Allegro section comes along, things liven up, but still keeping a majestic sense about the music. Farrenc's writing between the instruments is balanced well, and the parts blend effortlessly. In the Andante con variazione, the violin has the melody, and once again we hear a theme which still has a regal feeling, even through out the variations of it, starting with the oboe, who plays a syncopated version of it. The first variation features the oboe by itself in a syncopated little motif. The violin has some fun runs in the second variation, which the clarinet and flute imitate briefly. The bassoon gets their tune at a variation, and then the horn. It's a charming movement, and the variations flow naturally in to each other. The third movement, Scherzo vivace begins with the theme being plucked by the strings, and then it opens up ever so grandly for the whole ensemble to play. The finale, Adagio-Allegro, begins with some statements that leave you wondering how and when this movement will fully open up, and provides some exciting anticipation, especially after an oboe cadenza of sorts, and a horn and clarinet playing octaves. The theme is beautiful, and the work comes alive and propels itself forward in each measure. It's without a doubt one of Farrenc's best works!
Here are some recordings of this wonderful work!