Quintets for Piano and Winds are masterworks, although,
the rather unusual scoring has meant that they are performed far
less than their elevated quality deserves. The two Mozart scores
have been released previously in 2000 on BIS-CD-1332 to considerable
critical acclaim. Beethoven’s Quintet for Piano and Winds
is a new release.
wrote several works for various combinations of wind ensemble
and his three movement Quintet in E flat major for piano,
oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon, KV452 is a masterpiece
of the genre. In 1784 following the successful premiere of the
Quintet for Piano and Winds at the Burgtheater in Vienna
the young Mozart wrote to his father Leopold stating, “I myself
consider it to be the best thing I have written so far in my life”.
is immediately struck by how much the Quintet for Piano and
Winds is like a miniature piano concerto but with wind accompaniment,
although, one never seems aware of over-dominance by the piano.
Also remarkable is the independence of the winds with occasional
writing of a solo quality. Biographer Alec Hyatt King sums up
the score succinctly by stating, “The work strikes a fine compromise
between display and feeling”. In the opening movement pianist
Stephen Hough and the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet provide
wit and amiability with playing evocative of a warm summer’s day.
This surely reflects a happy period in Mozart’s life. The central
Larghetto is both poignant in expression and highly engaging.
The expert players do not linger, instead adopting speeds that
feel just perfect. The finale, Allegretto is given
a brisk and vivacious interpretation. One notices that Beethoven’s
generally light-hearted writing is thrown into sharper relief
by some dark-tinged episodes.
remain an admirer of the well-performed account
of the Quintet for Piano and Winds, KV452 from the Ensemble Villa Musica. On their recording made in 2001 at
Bad Arolsen, Germany encountered some fierceness in the forte
passages from both the horn and winds. However, the sound is of
a decent quality with each instrument clearly audible. This is
available on MDG 304 1183-2 (c/w Quintet for oboe and
strings, KV370 and Adagio and Rondeau for glass harmonica, flute, oboe, viola and cello, KV617).
Adagio in C minor and Rondeau in C major, KV617 was
written in 1791 in Vienna for the rare combination of glass harmonica,
flute, oboe, viola and cello. The blind glass harmonica player
Marianne Kirchgassner had commissioned the score for a concert
in 1791 but the instrument quickly lost its popularity and faded
into obscurity. On this recording flautist Michael Hasel has made
an arrangement for piano, flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon that
should assist wider circulation in the chamber repertoire.
exceptional Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet and pianist Stephen
Hough blend beautifully in this arrangement. They underline
the rather melancholy character of the opening Adagio.
The concluding Rondeau - Allegro, alla breve
conveys a sunny quality and agreeable glow.
For those looking for a recording of the Adagio and Rondeau
in the original version for glass
harmonica, flute, oboe, viola and cello, KV617 I can suggest the
well performed account from Ensemble Villa Musica
on MDG Gold. The sound has a slightly fierce edge in the forte
passages from both the horn and winds. Otherwise the sound is
of a high standard. The recording is available on MDG 304 1183-2
(c/w Quintet, KV452 and Quartet, KV370).
The original version of the Adagio and Rondeau is an acquired
taste and there will be many, myself included, that dislike the
sound of the glass harmonica and fully understand the reasons
for its demise.
was undoubtedly familiar with Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and
Winds when he wrote his own Quintet in E flat major
for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon, Op.16 some
twelve years later. The two works share several distinct similarities
such as key selection and overall structure. The three movement
score was composed in Berlin in 1796 during Beethoven’s only major
tour as a concert pianist, evidently premiered in Vienna the next
year and published in 1801. Owing to the great demand for his
chamber music Beethoven made an arrangement for the standard piano
Bis version provides significant forward momentum in the extended
opening movement, marked Grave - Allegro ma non troppo and
there is ample opportunity for virtuoso piano display. I particularly
enjoyed the relaxed and languid Andante cantabile, however,
in the concluding Rondo the effervescent writing
requires more spirited to do the work justice.
Beethoven’s Quintet I am fond of the charmingly poised
version from the Gaudier Ensemble with pianist Susan Tomes.
The account was superbly recorded, being warm, clear and especially
well balanced, from 2005 at the Henry Wood Hall, London. The
disc is available on Hyperion CDA67526 (c/w Trio in B flat
major for clarinet, cello and piano, Op. 11 and Serenade
in D major for flute, violin and viola, Op. 25).
popular alternative choice in both the Beethoven and Mozart Quintets
for Piano and Winds are the assured, relaxed and lyrical accounts
from the Vienna Wind Soloists and André Previn. These warm performances,
recorded in the Schubertsalle, Vienna in 1985, provide decent
clarity but are rather aggressive in the forte passages.
The recording is available on Telarc Digital CD-80114.
this BIS release I encountered the commonly experienced engineering
difficulty with the balance of piano and winds. There is a rawness
in the forte passages from both the horn and the winds
that produced some blurring in the sound picture. Most positive
was Hough’s Steinway D grand piano. It has an appealing creamy
timbre and felt well balanced with the winds. The booklet notes
are interesting yet explain very little about the three scores.
There is enough room on the disc to have accommodated another
is an excellently performed and decently recorded release to which
I can give a hearty recommendation. Lovers of Mozart and Beethoven
chamber works will be in their element.