6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2007
Format: Audio CD
My heading says it all for this music and the performances. Mozart had a real knack for making wind instruments sound absolutely gorgeous. Besides the obvious works like the Sinfonia Concertante, K.299 and the all the wind concerti, great wind parts abound in the symphonies and especially the later piano concerti (No. 24, in particular). However, the Mozart wind and piano quintet is probably the greatest work ever for that unusual combination. Beethoven's is also magnificent, if not on the same exalted plane. The performances here are just wonderful. If you want to save a couple of bucks, the Naxos version is also superb.
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
I was enchanted with Mozart's Quintet for Piano and Winds, K. 452, when I heard it on a CD featuring Dennis Brain performing the Mozart horn concertos. I wanted to explore this work further and hear it together with Beethoven's Quintet opus 16. I was eager to compare at first-hand two similar compositions, one by Mozart at the height of his powers the other by Beethoven as a rising young musician in Vienna. This CD with pianist Murray Perahia and members of the English Chamber Orchestra is an admirable way to get to know these works and to develop one's ear for music.
Mozart's composed his quintet in March, 1784 when he was also writing his famous series of piano concertos. He described it as "the best work I have ever composed". The work is scored for the unusual combination of piano, oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon. The combination of piano and winds had special appeal for Mozart, as witnessed by the interplay between piano soloist and wind band in many of the piano concertos.
This three-movement quintet is highlighted by an exquisite interaction among the five instruments with none predominating over the other. It is a delight to hear every instrument play alone, in duets and trios with others, and in ensemble passages. Mozart uses the full tonal colors of each instrument and he displays them in almost every imaginable combination with each other.
The first movement opens with a majestic largo which flows into a lyrical allegro moderato with two primary themes. There are alternating chordal and scalar passages, passages for piano and the wind quartet, and passages where each instrument takes its turn. The slow movement, marked larghetto, is tranquil in character with an opening theme which dips into sadness. There is a brief, dramatic middle section featuring a horn solo before the return of the opening theme. The finale is a rondo which at the end broadens out into a cadenza in which each of the five instruments enters in turn playing contrapuntally to each other. This is one of the moments in Mozart which looks toward the final five-part fugual section in the finale of the Jupiter symphony. The work closes with a flourish and a brief return of the rondo theme.
When he came to Vienna for good in November 1792, Beeethoven hoped to make his way as a pianist as well as a composer. He also worked, as do many aspiring artist, by taking works by has masters as models and attempting to emulate and surpass them.
Beethoven tried to do so with his opus 16 quintet for piano and winds. Beethoven took Mozart's unusually scored work as a model and tried both to learn from it and also to show that he could compose in his own voice. His quintet,written in 1796, is the work of an ambitious fledgling composer while Mozart's quintet shows him at his best.
The quintet is modeled in form upon Mozart's with a slow introduction to the opening movement, a song-like middle movement, and a rondo finale. But there are major differences. At this point of his life, Beethoven composed to show off his virtuoso skills on the piano. The technology of the piano had advanced in the 12 years since Mozart's work; and Beethoven tried to take advantage of the capabilities of the instrument to display his incomparable technique. The opus 16 quintet is much more directed to the piano than is Mozart's. There are flashy runs up and down the keyboard, long trills, dramatic shifts of tempo, and heavy chords. The piano is at the forefront much of the time and, when the work was performed with Beethoven at the keyboard, he is said to have improvised long solo passages. That said, there are still fine solo passages in this quintet for each of the wind instruments.
Beethoven also put something of his own style into this early quintet. It is full of brash, flamboyant passages, changes in tempo, and sudden dynamic changes, all of which are foreign to the balance Mozart achieved in his quintet. There is an immediate, popular appeal to the younger composer's early work, while Mozart's quintet is far more subtle. Lewis Lockwood, a leadig Beethoven scholar, is critical of this quintet, finding it lacks "Mozart's perfect blend of imagination and restraint." Lockwood, Beethoven: the Music and the Life", p. 109 (2003)
The first movement consists of a long slow introduction -- marked grave -- which is not at all solemn and which leads into a dance-like opening allegro. The work moves along lyrically with some dramatic outbursts during the development section. The musical highpoint of this work is the second movement, marked andante cantabile. The movement opens with a slow theme in the piano which returns, after interludes, full of embellishment and filigree. There is an extended horn solo in one of these interludes, just as Mozart used the horn to good effect in the slow movement of his quintet. The third movement is a rolicking rondo with movements into the minor, and a loud clangorous, sudden close on the piano.
We have, then, on this CD, two works in the same form one by a master and one by a rising young composer. Both are enjoyable to hear and, on one level, it is good to avoid the temptation to play them off against each other. But one work is a great masterpiece and the other work is a good start by a composer who would go on to write many of his own masterpieces.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2005
Format: Audio CD
This is a fine performance of two similar pieces. Both are in E-flat major. Both are for the same five instruments: piano, oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon. They were written twelve years apart. One is by Mozart, from 1784. And yes, after he finished it, he wrote to his father that he felt it was the best work he had ever composed. Of course, that was before he wrote his last four symphonies and nearly half his piano concertos.
Murray Perahia (piano), Neil Black (oboe), Thea King (clarinet), Anthony Halstead (horn), and Graham Sheen (bassoon) are superb in these performances.
I was introduced to these works when four of my friends, a pianist, an oboist, and horn player, and a bassoonist were looking for a couple of pieces to play. I grabbed my clarinet and found the music. I like both of them. I especially like the closing coda and unusual cadenza in the Mozart piece, but there are fine themes throughout it.
Beethoven was still a young composer when he wrote his quintet in 1796. It was before he wrote most of the works that made him so famous: by then he had written about ten sonatas (including the Pathetique) and a couple of piano concertos. But it is a fine piece as well, and once again, I especially like the finale.
This CD is not all that long (less than 53 minutes), but the price is reasonable and the music is great. I recommend it.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2006
Format: Audio CD
I had this recording for years but could never warm to it. Perahia and his companions play a fine, poetic version of a work that Mozart said was the best thing he had written to date, but are let down by an overly spacious sound picture. The winds sound like distant bystanders, and a good rather than great performance is not enough to overcome this. Perhaps Perahia's reputation has elevated the status of this recording beyond its true merit. A decent version, but not one that can eclipse the very best rivals. Try the classic version with Gieseking on Testament if you want to hear a performance that can render you unmindful of lackluster sound.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
This disc,originally published in 1986 and re-released here at a lower price, is a well-recorded coupling of two popular works from major composers. The Mozart quintet was thought by Mozart to be one of his best works at the time and represents the composer at a mature stage. The Beethoven is also a fine composition and written while still a young man at the earlier stage in his career. Despite this disparity in terms of relative maturity, both works are skilfully written and enjoyable to hear.
In this case the players drawn from the English Chamber orchestra plus Murray Perahia on piano, are all well-respected and expert players in their own right. Perahia is renowned for his fine set of the Mozart piano concertos with the same orchestra so a real working partnership is revisited here and this mutual ease is apparent in these two performances.
There is some difference of opinion as regards the merits of the two performances with some finding the performances, although well-played technically, to be a little bland emotionally or interpretively. My suspicion is that this partly stems from the mutual ease of performance resulting from the regularity of making music together as described above. In my opinion these performances still deliver a very satisfying level of musical pleasure even in the light of many years of repeated listening. It is true that the sheer vibrancy of say, the coupling of Kremer and Argerich in the Beethoven violin sonatas is missing, but so is any suggestion of shallowness resulting from immature performers who have yet to delve below the surface of the written notes.
I would suggest that this is a very useful pairing of two not dissimilar works which are well-played and recorded and which capture musical colleagues who are very easy with each other and deliver a thoughtfully balanced way of playing. This is not as dull as it may seem or as some have suggested. Nor is as gripping as has been suggested by others. What it delivers is a middle of the road and safe interpretation that is well-played, well recorded and will be musically rewarding over years and perhaps survive long after other more excitable performances have passed on by.
This is therefore a carefully considered approach to these two works which may become more valued as reliably satisfying over repeated listening. As such I would suggest that they merit equally careful consideration.
on August 15, 2013
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
As I was learning the piano part of these quintets and didn't have a recording, I selected this CD because I am a huge fan of Murray Perahia's playing. The performances are as wonderful, of course, so I'm very happy with this purchase.