quintets which popularised the usual modern ensemble of flute,
oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn were written by Reicha. Although
Reicha was sometimes referred to as “the Beethoven of the flute”,
Beethoven himself wrote no wind quintets. He wrote for wind
ensembles customary at the time which usually comprised pairs
of the various instruments involved. Ulf-Guido Schäfer, clarinetist
of the Ma’alot Quintet, has partly remedied this by arranging
this series of extracts from Beethoven’s lesser-known music
for the theatre.
three works are not only re-orchestrated but, to a greater or
lesser extent, are cut and re-ordered. The music for “Die Ruinen
von Athen” is the most complete, as well as that reduced most
in scale as the original includes choruses as well as orchestral
items. As in all the suites recorded here the listener is likely
to be amazed at how much of the sense of the original is retained.
In many ways this is the most successful item. But the Overture,
with its mysterious slow introduction, is splendid as are the
Turkish March, with its dominant piccolo and well realized “patrol”
effect, and the large-scale choruses, which retain the grandeur
of the original.
extracts from “Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus” comprise just under
half the original, although they exclude the best known items
– the Overture and the Finale, which uses the theme also used
in the Finale of the “Eroica”. The remaining items are substantially
re-ordered and some are cut. What is surprising again is how
effective the results are. Certainly there are losses. The “Solo
della Signora Cassentini” (No. 14 in the original) with its
wonderful basset-horn solo is pleasant here but nowhere near
as characterful as the original. The end of the suite, which
uses part of the original No 8, at once one of the longest and
least interesting parts of the ballet, forms an unsatisfactory
conclusion. Nonetheless as a whole this Suite contains much
very attractive music well arranged and played. Similar comments
apply to the music from “Egmont”, which again lacks the Overture.
extensive notes by Helga Lühning in the booklet tell us much about
the original music and its context but fail to identify which
items are included on this disc and how they have been re-arranged.
Much as I have enjoyed this disc I would not recommend it to anyone
unfamiliar with the originals, all of which are readily available
in recordings which bring to life Beethoven’s original thoughts
without cuts or re-ordering. I do however recommend it strongly
to anyone interested in new light being shed on this music, and
of course to devotees of wind music. I am sure that they will
be as amazed and delighted as I was at the way in which the inherent
problems of the wind quintet of blend and ensemble have been overcome
and at the virtuosity and musicianship of these players. The recording
is clear without being too close. All in all, this is a disc which
provides considerable and perhaps unexpected pleasure.