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Antonín REICHA (1770-1836)
Wind Quintet in B flat major Op.88 No.5
Wind Quintet in C major Op.91 No.1
Michael Thompson Wind Quintet
Recorded St Paul’s Church, Rusthall, Kent, November 1995
NAXOS 8.554227 [63.04]

I’ve not been able to trace an earlier release of this coupling, which was recorded nine years ago; if it has appeared before it has slipped through my net. It’s certainly the case that the Michael Thompson Wind Quintet has given us other Reicha Quintets and on Naxos (their coupling of the C minor Op.91 no.6 and Op. 88 No.6 is on 8.554228 for instance).

Here we have more examples of idiomatic writing, and suitably nonchalant enjoyment of Reicha’s rich harmonies by a crack quintet. The earlier work is fluent and full of elegance once past the slow introduction. At over thirteen minutes this is an extensively worked over movement and one can see Spohr’s point when he ticked off Reicha for his squandering of prodigal ideas. Though against that there is development in profusion and a witty Mozartian pay-off to end the movement. Reicha tends to greater elegance than expression in his slow movements and so it proves here but the finale is a chatty conversation piece in which the agile bassoon makes its presence felt throughout.

The Op.91 No.1 Quintet – Reicha wrote twenty-five by the way – is somewhat more compressed though it still lasts half an hour. Ironically one feels the weight of Spohr’s criticism even more in the Allegro moderato where Reicha picks up and drops themes with the prodigality of a Victorian novelist. Most composers of the period would have killed for his gift for melody but Reicha seems supremely indifferent to considerations of this kind. The Minuet is the most clever and powerful movement here – complete with consecutive held note entries for the instruments, a wonderfully inventive touch.

The recorded sound in St Paul’s Church, Rusthall is sympathetic and not too spread; textures are quite clear. The notes are also good; as I said I’ve no idea where these performances have been hiding other than in the vaults. I wouldn’t say they’re essential purchases but for the wind quintet maven these are two of the Reicha 25 well worth tracking down.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Paul Shoemaker


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