john feeney


06 Jun 2014
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Customer ReviewsDragonetti: String Quartet and Quintets

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful5.0 out of 5 stars String Quintets with a Twist ...,  August 18, 2013 By bejart7092 (Sunny Florida) - See all my reviewsVerified Purchase(What's this?)This review is from: Dragonetti: String Quartet and Quintets (Audio CD)...actually, with a double bass. Renowned as a virtuoso on the contra bass, Domenico Dragonetti (1763?-1846) was born in Venice, moving to London in 1794 after acquiring a formidable reputation. With strong, over-sized hands, he was capable of remarkable range and dexterity. As to be expected, most of Dragonetti's compositions feature the double bass.

These 4 works were complied from manuscripts in the British Museum in London by the bassist, John Feeney. His determination to reintroduce Dragonetti as a composer to the modern audience resulted in this recording.

The opening bars of the 'Andante' of Quintet No.18 establish the dark, rich tones of the lower strings, as the work is composed for the uncommon combination of a violin, two violas, a cello and double bass. Written in C Major, the engaging 1st movement finds the double bass sharing the melodic lines with the cello as the violin offers a lilting counter melody. With the violas offering little more than supportive accompaniment, the work is primarily a showcase for the double bass.

In the 2nd and final movement, an extended 'Allegro non troppo, the rondo theme is introduced by the contra bass playing in the uppermost register of the instrument. The variations that follow encompass a wide range of emotional content, from a joyous country dance to a contemplative excursion by the double bass that includes a bravura display in the very lowest registers. One variation dips into minor, bringing an ominous, almost macabre quality to the passage.

Composed in F Major, Quartet No.1 employs a standard string quartet alignment, but with a compound 5 movement structure. The beginning 'Andante' features virtuosic writing for the 1st violin, with a deliberate pace that allows Krista Bennion Feeney ample opportunity to give full emotive effect to the elaborate ornamentation. With no contra bass, the cello assumes the responsibility for the melodic counterpoint. In triple meter, a compact, charming 'Presto' follows. A hushed solo violin transitions seamlessly into the 3rd movement 'Andante', which contains enough flexible phrasing to produce a powerful emotional impact.

A precise, almost dainty opening to the following 'Allegretto' gives way to a darker tone as the work shifts into minor, before smoothly flowing into the 5th and final movement. In 3 distinct sections, it begins with a halting triple metered 'Allegretto', sleek and bittersweet, followed by a reverent 'Adagio'. Swooping violin lines dominate much of the concluding 'Allegretto', sweeping the complex piece to a satisfying ending.

Employing the unusual instrumentation of two violins, two violas and a double bass, Quintet No.31 is written in D Major, and opens with pensive 'Adagio' that slides in and out of minor. For extended periods, the contra bass is silent, giving the work a top heavy sound that is in sharp contrast with most of the recording. When the double bass does enter, it produces a striking effect. A rustic 'Presto' follows, with a lilting 1st violin skipping gaily above the lumbering double bass, before drifting to placid close.

Also in 2 movements, the Quintet No.13 utilizes the same instrumental lineup as the initial work on the recording. Using Haydn's theme from the 2nd movement of his Symphony No.99, but changing the key from G Major to C Minor, Dragonetti drastically altered the character of the melody.

Darkly dramatic, the opening 'Adagio' combines the contra bass and the cello to ground the 1st movement. Sharp interjections by the lead violin punctuate the piece, but the work belongs to the lower strings. The mood brightens briefly with extensive passage work from the double bass before the bleak conclusion. The playful theme of the following 'Allegretto' is based on a popular contemporary tune. Although the 1st violin supplies piercing exclamation points, difficult solo passages for the contra bass prevail in this final movement as it concludes the recording with a virtuosic flourish.

Using particularly supple tempos, the Loma Mar Quartet makes extensive use of fermatas to bring these compositions to life. Frequently in the spotlight, contra bassist John Feeney shines, performing with aplomb in the difficult passages, and a graceful elegance throughout. The engineering is close and clean, almost sounding like we were looking over the performer's shoulders.

This premier recording is an excellent example of Domenico Dragonetti's chamber works, compositions that deserve wider audience.



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