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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Quintet K.452 in Eb major for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon (1784)
Ludwig Van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Quintet op.26 in Eb major for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon (1796)
Daniel Barenboim, piano, Hansjörg Schellenberger, oboe, Larry Combs, clarinet, Dale Clevenger, horn, Daniele Damiano, bassoon.
Recorded Orchestra Hall, Chicago, October 1993
ELATUS 2564-60445-2 [48:51]

Here is a coupling of two of the most delightful works ever composed for wind instruments, though they occupy very different places in their two composers’ careers. The Mozart Quintet for Piano and Wind was composed in 1784, when he had reached full maturity as a composer, and was poised to pour out the masterpieces of the last seven years of his life. The Beethoven, on the other hand, is a comparatively early work, written as a direct homage to the Mozart work, which Beethoven heard on a trip to Prague in 1796. Here we have Daniel Barenboim, in music to which he is ideally suited, together with four of the principal wind players from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

And an excellent ensemble they make, though I could sometimes wish for a slightly more assertive approach from the three reed players. Were they, perhaps, a little overawed by Barenboim’s presence, and therefore less inclined to take the expressive initiative than they might otherwise have been? Hansjörg Schellenberger’s oboe playing, in particular, is far less engaging than that of Neil Black on the outstanding Sony recording, with Perahia at his wonderful best at the piano. On the other hand, I did enjoy horn player Dale Clevenger’s willingness to sound forth brassily at appropriate moments in both works.

These are lively characterful accounts; Barenboim is probably better in the Beethoven than the Mozart, where he sometimes fusses at the music, and introduces some slightly unwelcome dynamic variations, risking drowning out some of the delightful details in the wind writing. The Beethoven is, ultimately, not at all on the same artistic level as the Mozart; but it does have a genuinely fine slow movement, fit to rank with those in his earlier piano concertos, and Barenboim and his colleagues make a splendid job of it, with all the wind solos lovingly shaped.

The recording, made in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, is excellent, well balanced and intimate without being intrusively close. A highly enjoyable issue then, though not one to displace the Perahia or Kuerti on CBC.

Gwyn Parry-Jones


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