Jeanne-Louise Farrenc (1804-1875) was one of the few French women of her time to have anything close to a successful career as a composer. Her credentials were top-notch -- she studied with Hummel, Moscheles, and Reicha; her music was praised by Schumann and Berlioz; and her works were published and performed with some frequency during her lifetime -- but her career never quite took off. Her contemporary, musicologist François-Joseph Fétis attributed the limits of her fame not to any deficit in her creativity, but to the fact that in mid-19th century France, chamber music, her chosen specialty, was generally held in such low regard that no composer focusing primarily on that genre could expect much recognition or respect. The two works recorded here show her to be a composer with a Mendelssohnian inventiveness and grace.
Works for large chamber ensemble of mixed winds and strings were still something of a rarity in Farrenc's time. Beethoven had written a septet early in his career, Schubert an octet, and in 1813 Ludwig Spohr composed a nonet for the same ensemble that Farrenc used in her Nonet of 1850: a standard wind quintet plus violin, viola, cello, and bass. Lasting a half hour, it's a substantial work, similar in form and scale to Mendelssohn's 1825 Octet for strings, and while it may not have that work's brilliance, its style is very similar -- witty, urbane, and utterly charming -- and its Scherzo is especially engaging. Trios for clarinet, cello, and piano were also relatively rare, with pieces by Beethoven and Anton Eberl being early exemplars, but the genre has become, if not exactly mainstream, at least somewhat common. Ferrenc's 1856 Trio doesn't rise quite to the level of inspiration of the Nonet and isn't as elegantly developed, but it's a charming piece nonetheless. German chamber ensemble Consortium Classicum and clarinetist Dieter Klöcker, cellist Peter Hörr, and pianist Werner Genuit bring the requisite sparkle to the performances. The sound is clean and clear, if a little bright in the Trio.