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A useful and attractive coupling given fine performances and excellent recordings,
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This review is from: Mozart / Beethoven: Piano Quintets (Audio CD)
This disc, excellently recorded in 2000 and 2004, offers the Mozart and Beethoven piano quintets that many collectors will find to be an ideal and obvious coupling and with a top quality group of performers that do not fail to satisfy. There is even a bonus extra item in the form of Mozart's Adagio and Rondeau in C KV 617 arranged by Michael Hasel for piano and one of each of the four woodwinds.
The quintet by Mozart is his only such combination and it was written at the time of the piano concertos 15, 16 and 17. These three concertos fall within the middle of Mozart's piano concertos and therefore at a time where he had fully mastered his craft and immediately precede his final masterpieces. The piano quintet shares that compositional inspiration and skill and the work could almost be described as a mini concerto in its own right. The three movement format of Largo/Allegro moderato; Larghetto; Allegretto is similar to a concerto format and in this case the woodwind writing fills the role of the orchestra with its use of dialogue.
The Adagio and Rondeau is an arrangement by the ensemble's flautist and reworks the quintet written for glass harmonica, flute, oboe, viola and cello. That unusual combination has been successfully and more usefully transformed into a quintet for piano and the four woodwinds.
Beethoven's piano quintet is an early work dating from 1796 and carrying the opus 16 number. It was written during a concert tour immediately before he was struck by increasing deafness and at a time when chamber music was in great demand. This quintet was a reworking of the standard piano quartet combination of piano, violin, viola and cello. Although similar in many ways to the Mozart quintet, the one by Beethoven has a more prominent role for the piano as appropriate to his own touring use of the work.
All of these works are played at the highest level of technical proficiency and musical empathy. The wind players deliver the level of performance associated with this group and Stephen Hough provides glittering piano playing that still blends well with the other players. There is an infectious sense of performance pleasure throughout this disc that is preferable to the Perahia disc which can seem rather straight-laced by comparison whilst still being quietly satisfying in its own less demonstrative way.
I would suggest that this disc, with its sense of joy, is likely to give joy to purchasers and therefore suggest that it is well worth considering as a leading contender for this repertoire.