The unjustly neglected piano quartet (J76) was completed in September of the year 1809, which the 22-year-old Weber spent in Stuttgart. It was originally offered to the publisher Hans Georg Nägeli, but he rejected it, advising the composer that it created wanton ‘confusion in the arrangement of its ideas’ and indeed too obviously imitated the ‘bizarreries’ of Beethoven. However, the work was issued a year later by the Bonn firm of Beethoven’s friend and admirer Nikolaus Simrock, whose ears were more receptive to the peculiarities of the score than Nägeli.
The CD format for opera on records coincides with (and perhaps encourages) the modern habit in the opera house of running two or more acts together without an interval. Some operas benefit from this, but I don't think Faust is one of them. It strikes a genial bargain. ''I won't waste your time,'' it promises, ''but don't bother to come along if you haven't got a full evening-out to spare.''
David Zinman's performance of Coppelia is beautifully played and most naturally recorded. The warm acoustic of the Rotterdam concert hall certainly suites Delibes colourful scoring, and the gracefully delicate string-playing is nicely flattered. 'Les Sylphides' is a compilation of works by Frédéric Chopin. It was conceived as a ballet by Mikhail Fokin in 1909, and orchestrated by Roy Douglas in 1936. 3. Faust: Ballet Music by Charles Gounod.
In nearly every respect this is outstanding. The Rondo brillant and the Fantasie, both written for the virtuoso duo of Karl von Bocklet and Josef Slawik, can sound as if Schubert were striving for a brilliant, flashy style, foreign to his nature. Both are in places uncomfortable to play (when first published, the Fantasie’s violin part was simplified), but you would never guess this from Faust’s and Melnikov’s performance; they both nonchalantly toss off any problem passages as though child’s play. The Fantasie’s finale and the Rondo brillant are irresistibly lively and spirited, and this duo’s technical finesse extends to more poetic episodes – Melnikov’s tremolo at the start of the Fantasie shimmers delicately, while the filigree passagework in the last of the variations that form the Fantasie’s centrepiece have a delightful poise and sense of ease.