Comparison: Perahia/English Chamber
These two Quintets
for Piano and Winds are the most famous
in the world of art music for the grouping
of piano, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon.
Beethoven used Mozart's Quintet as his
role-model; therefore, it is not surprising
that both works are in the key of E
flat major, have three movements and
are quite similar as to form. Other
strong similarities are that both works
have great elegance and stature and
are guaranteed to lift listeners' dispositions.
Of course, Beethoven's
Quintet is not a clone of the Mozart
Quintet, and the piano parts constitute
the primary distinction between them.
In Mozart's Quintet, the balance between
piano and winds is of the utmost importance;
Mozart considered this balance so perfect
that he wrote to his father that it
was "the best work I have ever composed".
In contrast, Beethoven gives the piano
a leading role that even includes cadenzas.
of these two works convey the full measure
of their optimism, architectural balance,
and stately demeanour. However, most
important is to detail the deliciously
pristine dialogue among the instruments.
Both works possess a tremendous capacity
to offer some of the finest and most
natural conversations found in the entire
classical repertoire. Only masterful
composers are capable of providing transcendent
levels of dialogue, and both Mozart
and Beethoven are at the top of the
The Mozart and Beethoven
Quintets are commonly paired on disc,
and the Sony recording from Murray Perahia
and members of the English Chamber Orchestra
is generally considered the most rewarding
of the modern era. I am happy to report
that the Danish group holds up very
well in this company and even trumps
the ECO in a few areas. Gothoni and
company are quicker in all the outer
movements, imparting greater excitement,
drive and youthful exuberance than Perahia's
group. Another advantage concerns the
fact that Beethoven's music has a gruff
quality not found in Mozart's works.
The Danish group plays up this distinction
very well, giving Beethoven's Quintet
a compelling angularity. Essentially,
Perahia and the ECO members play Beethoven
in the same suave manner as Mozart,
although they certainly recognize that
the piano takes the lead in the Beethoven.
Finally, the CLASSICO sound is more
immediate, crisp, and detailed than
I do have two reservations
about the disc for review. One is that
Gothoni's projection is sometimes too
demure, while Perahia's is nearly perfect.
Also, Gothoni doesn't give Beethoven's
2nd Movement the loving treatment afforded
On balance, the recording
from Rolf Gothoni and the Wind Quintet
of the Danish National Radio Symphony
Orchestra offers exceptional interpretations
of the Mozart and Beethoven Quintets
that stand tall next to the Sony recording
of the works. I love their youthful
exuberance and the gruff demeanour they
impart to the Beethoven Quintet. This
is one of the best recordings I have
heard from CLASSICO, and it will be
in the running for one of my MusicWeb
Discs of the Year 2004.