Martin Joseph Mengal was born in Ghent in 1784. He came from a family
of horn players - his father taught him the instrument and his younger
brother also had a very successful career as a horn player in Ghent.
However, Ghent was not a nice place at the beginning of the nineteeth
century. It was known as "the Manchester of the continent". a mass of
squalid industrial slums jammed with the homeless and unemployed.
Poverty was endemic. Typhoid and cholera epidemics were common.
Mengal moved to Paris where he played with the Opera Comique and
studied compostion with Anton Reicha, the man who famously introduced
the concept of the wind quintet to Paris society and established
performances of his newest quintet as unmissable social events.
In 1825 Mengal returned to Ghent as director of the theatre, but moved
to The Netherlands soon afterwards. He returned permanently to his
home town in 1835 to become the first director of the
consevatorium. He died in 1851
Mengal wrote a large number of operas and a considerable quantity of
chamber music. His wind quintets are quite unlike those of his
contemporaris - the textures are much fuller and seem to have more in
common with string quartets of the time than with the wind quintets of
Reicha and Danzi. All his wind quintets are based on the works of
other composers. The quintets we are proposing to perform were
originally violin sonatas by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. They have
been reworked by a highly skilled composer and derserve to be heard
(Our picture is not actually of Mengal: we have not been able to find a
portrait of this neglected master.)