This imaginative disc
– not the first and assuredly not the
last to explore the contemporary chamber
arrangements of Beethoven’s compositions
– works rather well as a programme.
All three works were arranged for string
quintet during Beethoven’s lifetime,
though not necessarily by him and in
fact not necessarily by two of his most
famous acolytes and copyists Czerny
and Ries. Both certainly did make arrangements
of their teacher’s music but none of
these three works can be ascribed definitively
to them or anyone else. It’s not even
certain that they gained Beethoven’s
imprimatur either, though the booklet
notes speculate that "presumably"
The three arrangements
appeared shortly after the premieres
of the works in their original guise:
the Pathétique about eight years
after premiere and then, escalating,
the First Symphony three years after
publication of the orchestral score
and the Eighth two years afterwards.
Certainly they function idiomatically
for domestic consumption. If the Pathétique
is the most unusual involving a transferred
medium is involved and keyboard complexities
are translated to an all-string medium.
The Symphonies are probably the most
rewarding in terms of elucidating the
scores, tracing harmonic implications
and otherwise gaining a greater understanding
of the compositional issues.
was recorded in St Martin’s Church,
East Woodhay which is very slightly
too resonant an acoustic; more so than
St Silas Church, Chalk Farm, where the
symphonies were recorded. But it does
suit the amplitude of the quintet medium
well enough and the playing is loyal,
colourful and adept. It’s an odd experience
listening to this transformed Piano
Sonata with its flighty passagework
for the first fiddle and the strong
inner part writing for violas and anchoring
cello. The first movement lacks the
vehemence of the original and the second
– though I agree with the notes about
the cantabile aspect – rather
loses the starkness of the piano version.
Symphonic work is, of course, simplified
in these arrangements but the inner
part writing is admirably conveyed.
I was especially taken by the Allegretto
of the Eighth. This does justice to
its gruff wit and shows just how convincing
a structure it is as well as why it
should be so successful.
The booklet notes are
helpful. The performances are well integrated
and sound well rehearsed. I’m not quite
sure what constituency the disc will
have – but who knows, perhaps it will
encourage a spate of domestic music
making in emulation.
see also review
by Colin Clarke