Nonet in E flat major, Op.38

Composer: Louise Farrenc (b. 1804 - d. 1875)
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Composer: Louise Farrenc (b. 1804 - d. 1875)

Performance date: 04/07/2019

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1849

Duration: 00:31:32

Recording Engineer: Gar Duffy, RTÉ

Instrumentation Category:Small Mixed Ensemble

Instrumentation Other: fl, ob, cl, bn, hn, 2vn, va, db

Artists: Malachy Robinson - [double bass]
Christopher Marwood - [cello]
Efdal Altun - [viola]
Azahar Wind Quintet (Frederic Sanchez Muñoz [flute], María Alba Carmona Tobella [oboe], Miguel Ramos Salvadó [clarinet], Antonio Lageres Abeal [horn], María José García Zamora [bassoon]) - [wind quintet]
Keith Pascoe - [violin]

Azahar Ensemble
Frederic Sanchez Muñoz
[flute], María Alba Carmona Tobella [oboe]
Miquel Ramos Salvadó
[clarinet], Antonio Lagares Abeal [horn]

María José García Zamora [bassoon]
with Keith Pascoe [violin] Ellen Nisbeth [viola],
Christopher Marwood
[cello] Malachy Robinson[double bass]

Louise Farrenc [1804-1875]

Nonet in E flat major, Op.38 [1849]

1. Adagio – Allegro

2. Andante con moto

3. Scherzo vivace

4. Adagio – Allegro

A concert pianist and professor at the Paris Conservatoire, the piece for which Louise Farrenc won most recognition in her lifetime was her only chamber work without piano. Led by the 18-year old superstar violinist Joseph Joachim the 1850 premiere drew a large audience – a feat in a Paris that was sympathetic neither to symphonic nor chamber music (both were viewed as ideologically Germanic). Coming months after the premiere of her Third Symphony, the public attention was also testament to Farrenc’s growing profile. 

Two months after the premiere, Louise confronted the Director of the Paris Conservatoire, where she had been a full professor for 7 years and would go on to serve for another 23, to successfully claim equal pay with her male colleagues. Her students won more than their share of the conservatoire’s annual prizes and her piano Études had been adopted as standard repertoire at the Conservatoire. About this time she also published two violin sonatas and two piano trios. 


Farrenc’s choice of E flat major is a nod to Beethoven’s 1802 Septet in the same key. Beethoven was one of the composers whom she studied most closely, and, coincidentally, a lifelong friend of Antonin Reicha, her composition teacher from the age of sixteen. Like in Beethoven’s Septet , Farrenc gives prominence to the winds. 

This terrific work opens with proud chords that gradually unravel in scalar passages. Upper winds are individually introduced with the strings filling out the texture beneath. The violin then emerges and after a moment of suspended motion (a favourite trick of Farrenc’s) ushers in an Allegro. 

While the first movement uses orchestral colours, the second is quintessential chamber music. The initial statement of the theme is starched but becomes jaunty in the first variation led by the oboe.  In the second variation the violin and viola compete playing quick passages of broken chords with the flute and clarinet joining in. The relaxed third variation foregrounds the bassoon while the fourth is a perfect blend of strings and winds. A slow high trill on the violin gives intensity to the fifth variation where the horn has the melody. The final notes of the closing allegretto presage the opening of the Scherzo. Opening with tip-toe pizzicati the Scherzo grows to a magnificent vista of high sustained notes in the winds over restless strings in a section reminiscent of Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture and bursting with joyful good humour. The Trio enters with a jaunty tune in the home key giving the horn a fine solo. The main Scherzo returns da capo with a witty coda to close.  

The Finale opens with grandiose introductory chords concluding with an oboe cadenza and a short fanfare from the horn to announce a lively rondo bursting with ideas that brings the work to an ebullient close.

Mary-Ellen Nagle