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Antonín REJCHA (1770-1836)
Wind Quintet, Op. 88 No. 2 in E flat Major [25:25]
Wind Quintet, Op. 88 No. 1 in E minor [20:50]
Wind Quintet, Op. 91 No. 3 in D Major [21:34]
rec. 2018, Dvořák Hall of the Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic SUPRAPHON SU42702 [68:04]
The Czech born composer Antonín Rejcha, who later became a naturalised Frenchman, is perhaps best known as a lifelong friend of Beethoven, as well as the teacher of such musical luminaries as Liszt, Berlioz and Franck. He was a composer before his time, advocating such techniques as polyrhythm, polytonality and microtonal music, ideas that, probably due to his refusal to publish his music, failed to become established in his lifetime. He, as well as these ideas, soon fell into obscurity after his death.
Rejcha was a prolific composer who wrote in most genres, including around twelve symphonies, concertos, music for theatre and church. However, it is his chamber music for which he is best known, especially his twenty-four wind quintets. He also composed other works for differing combinations of wind instruments, these included music for four flutes and trios for three horns. He was also an excellent pianist which led to copious compositions for the instrument and some very fine recordings of his piano music are now available, not least the ongoing survey of his complete piano music on Toccata.
His wind quintets were grouped together in four collections of six, although there are also the Four movements for wind quintet in F minor which is sometimes described as the Wind Quintet No. 25. The three quintets collected here come from the earlier collections with the Op.88 from 1817 with the Op. 91 from two years later in 1819, with the booklet suggesting that these could have been composed for five of his former pupils, all excellent wind players and who were all now professors at the Paris Conservatoire. My experience of the wind quintets revolves around two volumes of the Albert-Schweitzer-Quintett’s survey of the complete quintets for CPO (999 027-2, 999 028-2), with only one of the works presented here featuring on these discs, the E flat Major Quintet Op. 88 No. 2.
The first thing that you notice when you compare the two recordings is the sound. The CPO disc was recorded over thirty years ago, and whilst it still sounds very good, this new Supraphon recording is brighter with a greater depth, something that here brings out every nuance of this music to the full. The performance is also more detailed and sharply focused adding to the enjoyment of the music. The wind quintets are more traditional and less forward looking than much of Rejcha’s other music but they still have a charming personality. This is especially true of the first work featured here, the E flat Major Quintet, Rejcha’s most popular work, and the only one that is duplicated by the Albert-Schweitzer-Quintett. Here the first masterpiece of the wind quintet repertoire, comes across as being fresh and optimistic, with the differing sonorities and timbres offered by the various combinations of instruments coming off so well, with the Belfiato Quintet in sparkling form. This is carried over to the second work on the disc, although in the E minor Quintet it is the composer’s own instrument, the flute, which gets the prominent role. Whilst the oboe is the star in the slow section of the opening movement of the D Major Quintet, with the horn popping up in the Adagio with great effect. Throughout these three works we get a strong sense of musicianship, with Rejcha’s orchestral experience certainly coming through as he melds the capabilities of each of the instruments to produce a beautiful sounding whole.
The Belfiato Quintet are excellent throughout, theirs is a more detailed and enlightening performance, one that shows this wonderful music off to its best. You get a real sense that they are enjoying playing this music, something which is not always the case with other recordings of these works, and it is for this reason that I hope they will be presented with the opportunity to record further examples of Rejcha’s music. They are aided by wonderful recorded sound which helps this nuanced performance to come alive, with every twist and turn coming through perfectly. The very good booklet essay gives real insight into the man and his music before discussing each of the three quintets and this aids the enjoyment of the music presented here. A wonderful recording, the best I have heard of Rejcha’s wind quintet’s, but one that left me with a sense of longing; longing for more from the Belfiato Quintet, highly recommended.