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Anton REICHA (1770-1836)
Woodwind Quintets - Volume 9
Quintet in B minor Op.99 No.5 (publ. 1822) [38:33]
Quintet in G major Op.99 No.6 (publ. 1822) [35:36]
Westwood Wind Quintet
rec. Crystal Chamber Hall, Camas, Washington, July 2006 
Experience Classicsonline

Crystal Record’s devotion to Reicha’s woodwind quintets is estimable. We’re up to volume nine and the Westwood Wind Quintet does the honours in truly accomplished fashion. There are but two works here but they’re big, sonorous and large-scale ones published in 1822 and fully deserving of reclamation in such expert hands as these.
The opening of Op.99 No.5 floats in with the most beautiful and well balanced Andante – a Siciliano of dappled loveliness. The ensuing tumbling, flowing and exciting extroversion is the perfect riposte; an Allegro of ravenous yet decorous masculinity.  It shows how finely perched these works are between introspection and well-wrought, technically accomplished self-projection. They’re also formally always of the highest interest, playing tricks with harmony, structure, form and keys so subtly that you would barely notice. Take the sonata form slow movement, warmly spun but with a profusion of themes – note especially the lines for flute and oboe – that would have kept lesser composers well stocked for months. Is the Menuetto one that, as claimed in the notes, shows Reicha’s “Czech ethnicity”? Not so obviously though it’s certainly a wonderful frolic. The finale has a strain of nobility and gravity that can hardly fail to impress. It ends an involved, long, imaginative and ceaselessly inventive work.
Its companion, No.6 is hardly less expansive or less splendid. Reicha again starts with a long and involved opening statement before a fanfare-like bassoon announces the Allegro whereupon the sonorities deepen and bustle. But the Westwood team ensure that lines still remain clear, that there’s no saturation or fat. The teaky sound of the Air en Fantaisie slow movement is richly evoked. And once again Reicha flings themes over his canvas with the profligacy of a Jackson Pollock, though with somewhat more comprehensible results. The Gallant assurance of the finale comes after an unusually technically complex Menuetto and crowns another richly rewarding work. 
Reicha was a master of the form and wrote voraciously for woodwind quintet. This series is shaping up to be a major contribution on record but no one but a complete Reichaholic, surely, will want to hear them all. To start here however would be no bad place – big, symphonic quintets, cleanly delineated, finely played and bursting with Classical ideas and expertise.
Jonathan Woolf


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