Antonin Reicha (1770-1836), although not the first to compose for the wind quintet, was undeniably the man responsible for its unique popularity during the early years of the nineteenth century. He became one of the Paris Conservatoire's most respected professors — amongst his students were Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz, Henri Brod (oboe virtuoso and composer), Georges Onslow, Charles Gounod, Louise Farrenc (the first woman to be appointed professor of piano at the Paris Conservatoire) and Cesar Franck. He taught several generations of composers who responded to his massive output (he composed at least 28 wind quintets during his lifetime) by adding to the repertoire themselves.
He was born in Prague, but from the age of ten lived with his uncle Josef Reicha, a prominent cellist and composer at the court of the Uttingen-Wallersteins at Castle Harburg near Ansbach. In 1785 Josef Reicha and his family moved to the Court of the Elector of Cologne in Bonn where Josef took up the prestigious appointment of Kapellmeister (the Elector Maximilian Franz Habsburg was the brother of the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II.) Antonin was given the second flute position in his uncle's orchestra, where he met Ludwig van Beethoven (who sat at the back of the viola section) with whom he became lifelong friends.
As a composer Reicha was obsessed with fugue, especially double fugue. He preferred to work with old-fashioned forms, but pushed them to their very limits; he layered polytonality, polyrhythm and the leitmotiv over the musical forms of the previous century, combining eastern european folk melodies with eighteenth century hardcore counterpoint on a symphonic scale to produce something very modern — a phenomonen which grabbed the attention of the Parisian public as well as that of its aspiring composers.
Here are the scores to 36 fugues for piano in 9 parts.
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