An acquaintance of Ferdinand Ries and Ludwig Spohr, Friedrich Ernst Fesca (1789-1826) was more interested in looking to the established Classical era models for guidance and inspiration in his musical works. Leave it to other composers to push the boundaries that eventually became known as the Romantic era.
By contemporary accounts, Fesca was affectionate and thoughtful, and these traits are located within his musical output, as well as an implacable cheerfulness. The composer of symphonies, operas, and concertos, his best work is found among his chamber pieces. He wrote 16 string quartets, but only 4 quartets for the flute. Three of those are presented here.
Although following the prerequisite of the `quatuor brilliant' where the solo instrument takes center stage for extensive periods of time, these flute works do not feature either extended solo cadenzas as a concerto might, nor do they offer displays of virtuosic pyrotechnics. What they do demonstrate is an accomplished integration of well developed melodic lines carried primarily by the flute, but with well placed interplay with the stringed instruments. Usually, this is with the upper strings, as in one particularly lovely section in the opening `Allegro' of the Quartet in D Major, Op.37, where the flute underpins the first violin. But in the 4th and final movement, marked `Rondo', there is one passage where the playful flute trades melodic lines with the cello.
While the 1st quartet is light and airy, there are darker moments in the opening `Allegro' of the Quartet in G Major, Op.38. However, this is late Classical era music, bright and sunny, prizing balance and restraint above all, and these episodes pass quickly. Beethoven's influence had yet to make a significant impact.
The 2nd movement, a pensive `Poco Adagio', may be the high point of the recording. Written in E Minor, its softly expressive melody modulates to major and back, ending all too soon. A wonderfully quirky `Scherzo' follows, alternating the flute with a mischievous cello, deftly handled by Mario Blaumer. A buoyant, triple meter `Allegro' concludes the work.
Cascading melodic lines in the flute dominate the 1st movement of the final Quartet in F Major, Op.40. The meditative `Andantino' brings a welcome respite from the cheeriness. A leisurely "Scherzando' follows, interrupted by a playfully halting `Vivace' before concluding with the brisk finale, also marked' Vivace'.
The Linos Ensemble brings a confident, assured reading to the recording, illuminating the shadows that convey a subtle contrast with the bright liveliness that characterize these compositions. Kersten McCall on flute is particularly noteworthy, delivering the fleet fingered passages that the melodic lines demand. In the crisp CPO engineering, the flute is highlighted, but without overshadowing the supporting strings.
During the Classical era, not every composer of merit was destined to be a Mozart or Beethoven, but these under known flute quartets by Fesca deserve to be heard and appreciated.