Wind players have known and treasured these performances since they originally came out on the Etcetera label in 1993. Naxos is showing their perspicacity by re-releasing the material on their budget label. One hopes this will bring these performances to the attention to wind fanciers (and younger wind players who weren't around back in 1993) because the playing here is simply beyond cavil. The performers (except for pianist Hugh Hinton) were all members of the famed woodwind section of the Boston Symphony although none of them was a principal player at the time; if nothing else this recording shows the incredible depth of the BSO's winds.
As for the music, Carl Reinecke (1824-1910) was well-known in his day as a composer, and possibly even better known as a conductor (thirty-five years at the helm of the Leipzig Gewandhaus) and teacher (e.g., of Grieg, Albéniz, Bruch, Janácek among others) at the famed Leipzig Conservatory. The two wind pieces -- the Octet, Op. 216, and the Sextet, Op. 271 -- are genial, almost 'comfort music', and although written quite late in the Romantic era (1892 and 1905 respectively) are redolent of the harmony, melody and craft of that period of German music. They are euphonious, beautifully scored, substantial, noble works. They are given gorgeous performances here.
The oddity on this CD is a flute-and-piano arrangement of seven excerpts from Reinecke's cycle of sixteen piano pieces, 'Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe' ('From the Cradle to the Grave'),which has pieces with such titles as 'Play and Dance', 'Vigorous Work', 'Bridal Procession', 'Birthday March' and 'Sunset'. The expert arrangement is by one Ernesto Köhler, of whom I'd never heard, and although I'm quite familiar with the piano original I found myself remarking again and again at the felicities of this arrangement. The redoubtable flutist is Fenwick Smith, who only recently resigned his long-time position as second flute in the BSO. His playing is graceful and limpid, and has the natural ease that only comes from complete mastery of the instrument. Add to that the fact that he plays a flute that he made with his own hands! Pianist Hugh Hinton is his equal partner.
This entire CD is a joy to hear. And at Naxos's budget price it is self-recommending.