This compilation is a delight. The NWE's is by far the finest performance of Beethoven's youthful Octet currently to be found on disc.
As a serious collector I usually avoid classical “greatest hits” albums as all too often such packagings tend to feature only snippets and excerpts of larger works (like a sort of Cliff’s Notes for Music Appreciation). This new anniversary compilation on Philips is a delightful and most welcome exception; there are several major works by Beethoven, Mozart, Dvorak and Stravinsky, each presented in its entirety, along with shorter works by Rossini, Michael Haydn and Franz Joseph Haydn, for over two and a half hours of wonderful music.
The Beethoven selections here are allRead more derived from the NWE’s 1976 recording of his complete works for wind ensemble which remains a benchmark for this repertory, and theirs is by far the finest performance of the youthful Octet currently to be found on disc; nobody else plays it with the Netherlanders’ particular blend of verve, virtuosity and wit, clarity, precision and élan. While lacking the Olympian seriousness of the Eroica Symphony or the Missa Solemnis, (the Opus 103 Octet was composed when he was 22 and published much later), Beethoven’s harmoniewerke, if appreciated on their own lighter merits, are often engaging and always diverting. It’s good to have the NWE’s musically intelligent and eminently entertaining performances back in the catalog.
Performances of Mozart’s Serenade #12 K 388 and Dvorak’s Op. 44 Serenade round out the first disc; both are top-flight performances, and along with the Beethoven are well worth the price of the set.
The two Stravinsky works on disc 2, despite stiffer competition in the current catalog, are also superb; one might ask for a little more bite in the Octet and a bit more swing in the Ebony Concerto, but even after 25 years these performances are still near the top of the heap (and the excellent re-mastering only reinforces this view). Delightful, contemporary arrangements of overtures and arias from Rossini operas take up most of the rest of the disc, with a trio of ‘miniature’ marches by the two Haydn brothers and Beethoven’s somewhat underwhelming Quintet in E-flat Major rounding things out. I might have opted for Beethoven’s tuneful and far-more interesting Septet movement rather than the fragmentary Quintet, or included the excellent 1977 rendition of Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments; but it’s a small quibble. Fans of The Netherlands Wind Ensemble and lovers of great wind playing will want to snap this up while they may!
--Jerald Thomas Hawhee (10/10/03) Read less
Very GoodSeptember 6, 2012By Daniel M. See All My Reviews"The performances here are excellent. Some of the recordings however do not have enough presence for my tastes. The overtones are diminished somewhat. This is most obvious in the oboes and horns. I am enjoying this collection of works very much and do recommend it."Report Abuse