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Joseph Franz : 9 Studies : DOz

Joseph Franz rev. Daniel Marz

Les Productions D’Oz: 19 pages

This comes from a series Neue Schreibart – 19th Century Guitar Music from Austria and Germany. The Neuie Schreibart (New style of writing) hearkens back to the Sonata Op7 (1806) of Simon Molitor in which he demands a new approach to composition and the way guitar music is set out on the page. Moreover he wanted to bring out the new harmonic styles that he hoped would be included in guitar music, hence this new book of pieces by Josef Franz, a name new to me.

The nine studies here are not for the beginner but more intermediate in difficulty. The music had more than a hint throughout of the melodic style of Schubert and therefore immediately came over as friendly and very pleasant to play and to listen to, for although they were studies they were very musical and lovely little pieces throughout.

Being studies of course each one does teach the player various things and so No1, a Moderato in 2/4 G major, is littered with semi – quaver arpeggios in triplets that consistently rise and fall with a melody in the bass, and then at the top of the arpeggio a melody in the treble too. This of course sounds like it might get very boring, but it really doesn’t, owing to the nature of Franz’s compositional skills.

No2 in Em in 2/4 is a two voiced idea, with the accompaniment rocking up and down, topped by a melody. Great smoothness is needed throughout.No3 is a very perky 2/4 Allegro with a winning melody and full of staccato notes throughout to give it a humorous feel, and is one of the best of the nine

No4, subtitled Im Walde has a jogging pony- dotted rhythmic feel again topped by a nice theme and harmonies, while No5 has a particular rhythm that goes through the piece, of a rising arpeggio consisting of a quaver an da triplet of semi – quavers then topped by a melody .Again the repeated nature of the music does not deter from the lovely end result of the music being delightful throughout.

No6 is another piece marked Sempre Staccato that is mostly written in 6th or 3rds and leaps around the fingerboard but is lots of fun. It has a contrasting idea marked ‘Harpa’ in the middle, where everything is to be utterly smooth, as a contrast. There is one misprint here though at bar 25 where I am convinced that the A marked natural should in fact be Ab.

No7 has several ideas and is full of fast moving rhythms of sextuplet semi – quavers, and ideas that race up and down and is an exciting play.

No8 looks at first glance to be easy, having ordinary looking arpeggios. but the difference here is that every one of the notes is marked staccato, so you cannot hold the chord shape down and just play, because that would result in a legato the composer didn’t want! This is harder to do than you might at first think! Then at bar 17, for eight bars , the legato feel does enter, only to revert to the staccato touch for the final time through

The final No9 is marked Harpa and is, by nature of its title, meant to be utterly legato, and moves from A minor to its tonic Major, and back again, and brings this beautiful set to a close.

This is a really interesting and eye – opening set of studies , I say eye – opening because here is another composer from the 19th century who I doubt many people have heard of, and yet it is obvious from this set that he really had something to say that was fresh and beautifully written at the same time. Definitely this is worth getting!

Chris Dumigan

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