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Franz DANZI (1763-1826) Complete Wind Quintets
CD 1
Wind Quintet in B flat major, Op.56 No.1 [15:52]
Wind Quintet in G minor, Op.56 No.2 [15:53]
Wind Quintet in F major, Op.56 No.3 [22:30]
Quintet in D minor, Op.41 for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon [22:58]
CD 2
Wind Quintet in G major, Op.67 No.1 [17:12]
Wind Quintet in E minor, Op.67 No.2 [18:07]
Wind Quintet in E flat major, Op.67 No.3 [17:01]
Quintet in F major, Op.53 for piano, flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon 23:30]
CD 3
Wind Quintet in A major, Op.68 No.1 [15:49]
Wind Quintet in F major, Op.68 No.2 [20:48]
Wind Quintet in D minor, Op.68 No.3 [17:58]
Quintet in D major, Op.54 for piano, flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon [21:06]
Love Derwinger (piano)
Philharmonisches Bläserquintett, Berlin
rec. February 1991, Siemens Villa, Berlin, Germany (Op.67); February 1992 (Op.56 nos. 1+3), October 1992 (Op.56 no.2, Op.68), Andreaskirche, Wannsee, Berlin, Germany; October 1991, Danderyd Grammar School, Sweden (Quintets)
BIS-CD-1581/82 [78:20 + 77:33 + 77:09]

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Franz Danzi is one of those ‘in between’ composers, whose lifetime straddled the era of Mozart (who Danzi knew and admired as a youth), and Beethoven (of whom Danzi also knew, but probably only partially understood). Franz was the son of Innocenzo Danzi, a cellist in the Johann Stamitz’s famous Mannheim orchestra, and whose chair he would eventually take over. As such the younger Franz was an eminently practical musician, knowing his orchestral instruments inside-out. His work is as a result thoroughly crafted and idiomatic, equally fun to play as to listen to in concert.

Antonín Rejcha (1770-1836) had already paved the way for this form with his 24 wind quintets, which are characterised with a refinement more associated with the already highly advanced string quartet. Danzi’s nine quintets were probably written between 1820 and 1824, appearing in the groups of three which allow for such symmetry in these three discs. Opus 56 is dedicated to Antonín Rejcha, and all follow the then popular four movement pattern of sonata form first movement, lyrical song form second, minuet third – sometimes with something of a scherzo character, and rondo finale. The piano quintets for piano and winds also represent Danzi’s entire output for these combinations, Opp. 53 and 54 for purely woodwind quartet and piano, with the piano taking a more prominent, almost concerto role. Opus 41 is more evenly matched, with subtle dialogues between piano and winds having more in common with the playful way in which Danzi employs such exchanges during the wind quintets.

This music is what we impresarios describe to clients as ‘light classical’, but with many such cases, the more you listen, the more there is to enjoy. Like a Fragonard painting, you can enjoy it as entertaining fluff, and then you can look closer at the detail, the individual characters and the way they interact, and discover that there is more to the work than meets the eye at first glance. There are some surprising modulations and little harmonic twists here and there, but to be fair there is little here which will make serious intellectual demands on the listener. With these CDs you can relax, pick up a book, and with a glass of wine or cup of tea at your elbow, have your moments repose enhanced by what even my 4½ year old daughter called ‘beautiful music’ after hearing only a brief fragment over my Grado headphones between running around and destroying things. What is beautiful is not only the composition, but the playing and recording as well. Perfectly balanced and intonated, the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet were all members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and formed their ensemble in 1988 when Herbert von Karajan was still in charge. The quintet recordings are all set in an appropriately resonant acoustic, the piano quintets slightly less so, but still with an appealing warmth and gentle flow to the sound which suits the form completely. There are plenty of opportunities for virtuosic display alongside the well-turned phrases and superbly crafted melodies and instrumental interaction, and Love Derwinger is a proven sensitive chamber musician as well as being a powerful soloist.

These three CDs were previously issued separately during the 1990s, and the track listings are identical to the original volumes. They now appear as a ‘3 for the price of 2’ set, and at over 230 minutes of top quality playing there can be no complaints about value. This set will enrich any chamber-music orientated shelf, and even just knowing you have it to hand will probably improve your life expectancy – it’s the musical equivalent of stroking a gorgeously soft and friendly cat.

Dominy Clements


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