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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Serenade in C minor K388 (c.1720) [22:42]
Leoš JANÁČEK (1854-1928)

Mládí (1924) [18:14]
Werner PIRCHNER (1940-2001)

Streichquartett für Bläserquintett PWV 15 (1974) [11:54]
QuintettWien; Reinhold Brunner (bass clarinet) (Mládí)
rec. 29 May–1 June 2006, Wiener Konzerthaus
NIMBUS NI 5812 [52:53]





This is an engaging and well produced program of wind music both familiar and less common. Mozart’s Serenade K388 is of course a popular work, and deservedly so. The unusual minor key gives the work a greater sense of depth than most of the other serenades, and although the ‘dark and sombre’ description I‘ve read elsewhere goes perhaps a bit far, there is certainly plenty of drama and tension in the opening Allegro. The instruments are quite closely recorded, but this takes nothing away from the pleasant atmosphere of that most elegant of Andante movements, and the voicing of the canon in the Menuetto provides the utmost in warmth and clarity. Of the other versions of this piece I suspect the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra on DG Galleria would be many people’s choice, but with wind playing like this I feel no need to start casting around for comparisons.

I know Janáček’s Mládí, or ‘Youth’, from a recording by the Prague Wind Quintet on Supraphon, coupled with both of his string quartets played by the Talich Quartet. In general the quintett.wien are a little broader and slightly less urgent sounding than the Prague players, and the Czech wind sound does have that more characterful acidic sound East-European, and more texture-laden vibrato than the Viennese group. This may have been more like the qualities which the composer had in mind, but the quintett.wien has the edge in refinement and accuracy in intonation, so it’s a case of swings and roundabouts. I have certainly been enjoying this new recording a great deal, and it holds plenty of that mix of surprising energy and nostalgic melancholy for which we love this music. I’ll keep the Prague version for that wonderful Czech French horn sound, but have great admiration for the results in this version.

Werner Pirchner may be a less familiar name to many, but some may have discovered his satirical wit and inventiveness on an ECM double CD release from 1986 called ‘EU’. The title, Streichquartett für Bläserquintett, is a typical prod against pomposity, but also has its origins in the original version of some of the music, composed for a film about the Tyrol, and using a Tyrolean slave song to create a number of variations. The later wind quintet version adds a few more movements, and on this recording the horn player Martin Bramböck opens the work with a sung version of this song, the text being included in the booklet notes. The Vienna Wind Soloists on ECM are more fun than quintet.wien, swinging out with plenty of gusto in the pseudo-waltzes, the horn and bassoon reveling in raucousness and farty noises wherever possible. Despite all this larking around, their playing in the final chorale is also more moving than the quintett.wien. All this said, I am glad to see Pirchner’s name being aired once again, and listeners need not fear that they are getting a sub-standard performance on this new disc. quintett.wien have great fun with the score as well, and the allusion to Malcolm Arnold in John Quinn’s booklet notes is apt indeed, although there are also some moments which put me in mind of a kind of mad Aaron Copland.

I used to live near Monmouth, and it is good to see my former local record company Nimbus back on its feet again. With solidly excellent recordings like this we can hope for a great deal more in the future. This is one of the best wind quintet recordings I have heard for a long time: close and intensely detailed, but with plenty of air and space around the musicians as well, it is absolute demonstration quality stuff.

Dominy Clements






 


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