It was via the agency of the firm that was soon to be known as
C.F. Peters that Crusell’s wind band version of Beethoven’s
Septet Op.20 came to be published. He offered the firm two movements
in 1822 and they accepted publishing the movements as separate
parts - not a score, unusually - as the ‘Grand Serenade’ a
few years later. It was no whim of Crusell’s, an illustrious
clarinet player, as he was fully acquainted the work. His first
performance of it may have been in 1805 and his last thirty years
later. So familiarity was comprehensive and his version for wind
instruments constructed with his usual facility and good taste.
One might say that the wind arrangement brings out latent military
cadences in the Septet. The slow movement is fluidly shaped and
textured and Crusell brings some charm to the Minuetto. In this
performance the Theme and variations forth movement is a serio-comic
affair, nicely characterised and the Scherzo is spry. The portentous
element of Beethoven’s writing is captured in the finale
with its solo instrumental voices and well supported sonorities
and chattering interplay.
If the Septet adaptation reveals one side of Crusell’s
jobbing pragmatism the Fantasy on Swedish National Melodies
us an avuncular chartering of his folkloric hikes. The time was
propitious for national settings but was as yet something of
a novelty in Sweden. Pioneer collectors of native melodies were
collating their finds and the Gothic Society, dedicated to the ‘spirit
of freedom and honesty’ had been active for some time.
In fact Swedish folk song melodies had been published during
the years 1814-18 so Crusell was sailing in newly chartered waters.
It’s certainly a shock to hear percussion ringing out in
strains of the opening. There’s a rich,
resounding quality to both music and performance that compels
a smile; from rich ensemble to single clarinet curlicues all
is genial and warm. Whether sinuously led by a flute, or by bardic
horn, the work is a processional of textured tunes; plenty of
allure, tempo doubling, and colour here.
As indicated the performances are buoyant and engaging and the
recording first class. It’s a disc more for Crusell Completists
than generalists; that much is obvious. But it broadens one’s
appreciation of his compositional traits in the 1820s and 1830s.