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Bernhard Henrik CRUSELL (1775-1838)
Fantasy on Swedish National Melodies (c.1836) [13:25]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Septet in E flat major Op.20 (arr. for wind instruments Crusell(c.1822)) [42:00]
Östgöta Symphonic Wind Ensemble/Olof Boman
rec. Östgötamusikens lokaler, January 2007
STERLING CDS-1080-2 [55:41]
Experience Classicsonline

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 gives 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 the pomposo 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.

Jonathan Woolf 



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