An Outlier in the History of Music…

. . . could be the way to describe Franz Xaver Frenzel. There is no reliable evidence whether the name is really identical with that of the composer who conceived all these extraordinary concertos, sonatas and symphonies. Only the scribbled signatures “Franz Xaver Frenzel” found on a few original scores-sheets might indicate the authorship of a man by that name. Composing in the traditional style of baroque music at its best, Frenzel stays in this very spirit with his concertos for trumpet and organ, whereas in his later periods parts of the music go beyond baroque landmarks as far as rhythm and melody are concerned. Sometimes one can get the impression that Frenzel skipped two centuries into the future by means of a science fiction time machine, looking for inspiration for a new sound.

This was the reason why Friedemann Katt, who discovered and published most of Frenzel’s pieces of music, decided to name the most flashy and eccentric example written for oboe and violin “Sonata In Swing”. Surprisingly this anachronism of style does not diminish the beauty of the composition. It seems to be appropriate and in fact it raises the appeal of the music’s inherent baroque spirit.

Not only the pieces of music as such, but also how they were discovered is outstanding. As a student of composition, Friedemann Katt was living in the Cistercian Abbey at Heiligenkreuz. While looking for some suitable compositions for trumpet and organ with his partner musician, he stumbled upon a piece of Frenzel’s music. The more the number of the musicians playing Frenzel grew, the more of his compositions were discovered by Katt.

As was usual with baroque Gebrauchsmusik, these pieces of music were gradually by more and more of the growing community of musicians and found favour the audiences at the same time. Nevertheless, Katt as the initiator of the concerts was not the author himself but he had Franz Xaver Frenzel stand in for him as the composer.

Thanks to Friedemann Katt’s work as a publisher, Frenzel the outlier is now being presented to the public via the internet. The concertos and sonatas by the baroque composer who – except for the name – is anonymous, provoke the same reactions today as in the very beginning, when Frenzel’s music was performed for the first time in Heiligenkreuz:  “We want more by Franz Xaver Frenzel! ”  (Franz Schrapfeneder)

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Franz Xaver Frenzel: Piano Concerto in C minor

Maki Namekawa

Clippings, CD presentation Lions / Ried, Maki Namekawa (piano), Festival Sinfonietta Linz, conducted by Johannes Wildner.

Photos: P. Beer / A. H. Bitesnich / R. Kloibhofer.