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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars magical partnership, 13 Oct 2003
This review is from: Gieseking and the Philharmonia Wind Quintet (Audio CD)
Four of the greatest British wind players partner Gieseking in outstanding performances of these two quintets. As well as the delight of Gieseking's relaxed playing style, we can hear wind playing from a past era - an era when wind sounds were fresh, piquant and alive - four distinct colours, welded together in a beautiful ensemble. All of these five great players are now no longer with us, sadly, but we can be glad that we have this fabulous testament to their art.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1955 AND COUNTING, 3 Oct 2005
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gieseking and the Philharmonia Wind Quintet (Audio CD)
Gieseking was not a chamber music player to any great extent, but Mozart's looming bicentennial year of 1956 seems to have prompted him to this unusual venture along with partnering Schwarzkopf in Mozart as accompanist. There has been a recent reissue on Sony of these very two works performed in 1953 by that dyed-in-the-wool chamber player Serkin with the principals of the Philadelphia, and it was that issue that reawakened my interest in the Gieseking set, which I have owned for many years. On the References LP the recorded sound is quite remarkably good, and if it has been further enhanced on this cd then so much the better. Brain's horn tone is caught beautifully, and that more than anything else is where this disc has a clear advantage. The woodwind sound is particularly pleasant too, and Gieseking's famously beautiful touch is reproduced very faithfully, to his entire advantage in the Beethoven work, perhaps a little less so in the Mozart.
Mozart's quintet breaks new ground in its treatment of wind timbre in a chamber context, and it is a relaxed and unqualified masterpiece. Beethoven's shows that mixture of caution with iconoclasm that was to be characteristic of him all his career, caution in this instance getting the upper hand. The piece is attractive and already individual in tone - he is following what was an innovative model, but he remains for the most part his master's voice still, his own further novelties being only at the margin. It is far and away the more straightforward work of the two, and Gieseking seems to me far more at home in it, however immersed he may have been getting in Mozart at the time. It is a work that responds particularly well to his refined and elegant manner in Beethoven. Serkin was another sort of Beethoven interpreter basically, but he doesn't try to give such a work as this the kind of 'thus spake' treatment he awards to bigger and more powerful compositions. As far as the piano part goes I should say both accounts are admirable, and Gieseking has a clear advantage in terms of the recorded sound.
When it comes to the Mozart there is no question at all that this account is relaxed, the question is whether it may just be too relaxed. What I can't feel sure of is to what extent the players, and the pianist in particular, really intended it to sound the way it does. You just have to play the Serkin account to be back in the normal world of Mozart-playing - alert, graceful and lively and with the characteristic variety of tone-colour that Serkin brought to this composer and to chamber music playing in general, the fruit of a lifetime's practice and familiarity already at age 50 on top of his inborn instinct. I sense that Gieseking basically set the tempo and idiom here. His touch is always tasteful and properly scaled, but after listening to Serkin it seems oddly monochrome, and after listening to Gieseking himself in the Beethoven it seems curiously diffident. This impression could be wrong of course. There is no question whatsoever but that the manner is very original and unusual, and by no means ineffective. This is Mozart, it is hallowed ground, and treading on it with deference and wariness is perfectly understandable. I can't make up my mind after all these years of knowing the performance, and I suspect I never shall be able to. What is unquestionable is just how beautiful it all is, and the recording engineers seem to have been very leading-edge for their time.
This is a disc that I have no qualms about recommending all the same. I can only suppose that its prospective purchasers are interested in hearing Gieseking, Dennis Brain and their illustrious partners in the two quintets. I am of course unable to offer comment on the filler consisting of a minor work of spurious attribution to Mozart performed under the baton of Uncle Herbert, but I suspect I would have had next to nothing to say about that in any event.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic accounts, 15 May 2007
By 
Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gieseking and the Philharmonia Wind Quintet (Audio CD)
One hardly notices the fact that this recording is in rather boxy mono sound; the playing is of such transparency and delicacy to disarm criticism - and in any case, the ear soon adapts to the ambience which is by no means unpleasing.

I'm afraid that while I otherwise applaud and approve his review, I take great exception to David Bryson's description of K297b as "a minor work of spurious attribution to Mozart performed under the baton of Uncle Herbert". It is a sublime piece in a recording I have loved for thirty years; I was delighted when it appeared on this issue. It features the same wonderful artists as in the Mozart and Beethoven quintets, with an orchestra and conductor in top form - no need to be snide about Karajan, especially if one is not even familar with the music. Mr Bryson says that he is "of course unable to offer comment on the filler" and admits that even if he did know it he "would have had next to nothing to say about that in any event" - so why talk disparagingly of it?

Having got that off my chest, I urge any music lover to acquire these cheap, classic accounts of some of the most delightful music ever written.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Testament from Testament, 1 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Gieseking and the Philharmonia Wind Quintet (Audio CD)
An itinerant preacher-man from Nazareth once said that come Judgement Day, everything hidden will be revealed. Whether one ends up with the sheep or the goats - what a choice - I want to stick around long enough to understand who wrote the Sinfonia Concertante for Four Winds, K 297b.

What is the Bermuda Triangle or Roswell compared with this mystery?

There is no other work like it in the repertoire. It is clearly the handiwork of a major composer - how else can one explain its melodic content and feel for woodwind? The fact that it is not even attributed to Joseph Haydn says something about its stature. And yet there is not a scrap of evidence to assign it to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. True, the Salzburg Kid did indeed compose such a work, albeit with a flute rather than a clarinet. He was gyped of the manuscript in Paris but he swore vehemently to his father in a letter that he would rewrite it on the journey home. Thereafter it disappears from view. A century later, a manuscript (not in Mozart's hand) was found in the estate of Otto Jahn, Mozart's doughty biographer. Alas, there was no indication of its origin and the flute had been swapped out for a clarinet. It was immediately attributed to Mozart until the Nineteen Fifties when doubts arose: there are structural anomalies in the first movement which do not bespeak Mozart (the main theme is repeated too often without ornamentation and the episode with the oboe is somewhat inorganic in the scheme of things).

These issues notwithstanding (perhaps the transcriber tinkered with its structure), it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that if Mozart did not write K 297b in his maturity, another Mozart did. The glorious Adagio opens with the four note motif that accompanied him all his life - and when the horn makes its entry after the opening bars, who does not undergo a China Syndrome on the spot and meltdown in the core?

Debate has erupted over this disc. It was awarded a Rosette by the Penguin Guide in an ex cathedra pronouncement. Others regard it wanly. There's little point discussing the four soloists from the Philharmonia in any of these works as their handiwork is transfigurative. My personal favourite is Sidney Sutcliffe on the oboe - what a timbre! And if Dennis Brain had left us nothing but 4'57"ff and 6'24"ff in the finale of the Sinfonia Concertante, he would still be remembered as a genius. That leaves Uncle Herbert, the contributions of one Walter Gieseking and the recording itself.

Karajan has a bad reputation in Mozart, largely stoked by his EMI cycle of symphonies from 1970 (murkier than the dark side of the moon), the marmoreal Don Giovanni from 1986 and his heartless sprint through Le Nozze di Figaro (Decca, not EMI). His Cosi and the 1976 performance of K 543 (DG) are regnant at the other end of the spectrum. Herbie recorded K 297b for EMI in 1971 - it is a spectacular `wipe out on Soup Beach' where not even the surf-board survived. Here in this November 1953 recording, he is in stellar form. Rhythms are well sprung. If he had subsequently conducted all of his Mozart performances in such a fashion, he would never have been associated with a certain word starting with `S' where forks are not required.

While no-one can argue against his touch, the tempos that Gieseking sets in the two Piano Quintets are somewhat leisurely and have attracted criticism. I do not care for Beethoven's Opus 16 as it is clearly a minor work but Mozart set great store by K 452; tempo-wise, he indicated Largo-Allegro Moderato / Larghetto / Rondo-Allegretto. To my mind, this schemata vindicates Gieseking's approach. Mozart clearly wanted us to wallow in the woodwind. If others prefer a more spring-heeled approach, there are plenty of alternatives.

Mono though it be, the recording is not without depth and warmth. As the President of the Australian Kna Association, trust me: I have heard much worse. The sheer magnetism of the playing will soon win you over.

K 297b-wise, this performance has a rival from February 1966: Mozart: Sinfonie concertanti. Perhaps the principals of the Berlin Philharmonic lack the individuality of their British counterparts but what music-making it is, underwritten by a vintage DG recording. Buy both and count yourself blessed.
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Gieseking and the Philharmonia Wind Quintet
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