Notes and Editorial Reviews
Walter Panhofer (pn); Vienna Octet
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 2397 (2 CDs: 140:51)
Four of the five performances in this two-disc,
budget-priced pack are being released on CD for the first time and one (Mendelssohn) is now available in its first international release on CD. Welcome indeed are all of them.
The Vienna Octet made numerous recordings throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, many of them reissued on other Decca Eloquence titles. The five performances contained in the release under consideration all date from 1968 except for the Rimsky-Korsakov Quintet, which comes from 1972. By 1968, only two members of the original Vienna Octet (formed in 1947 and consisting of the instrumentation in Schubert’s Octet) were still with the group, but regardless, these reissued performances are all imbued with impeccable musicianship, sleek sophistication, and that comfortable, easy sense of ensemble that comes from years of playing together in a stylistically uniform environment.
The recorded sound is rich and full, with an especially plump contribution from the double bass (Burghard Kräutler), some of the sweetest-toned clarinet playing I know (Alfred Boskovsky), and absolutely gorgeous horn playing (Wolfgang Tomböck). All five works are from the early-to-mid 19th century and all are written in a light, genial vein as music purely to be enjoyed, much in the manner of Beethoven’s Septet. Indeed, two of the works (Kreutzer and Berwald) are scored for exactly the same instruments as the Beethoven work.
Each has its own charm and individuality. Mendelssohn’s youthful (age 15) Piano Sextet includes two violas and a double bass. Its piano part will tax all but the most proficient technicians. Rimsky-Korsakov’s contribution is one of those rare piano quintets to include winds, not strings. (The instrumentation is identical to that of the Mozart and Beethoven examples except that flute replaces oboe.) It is as unlike the Rimsky-Korsakov we know from
Le Coq d’or
as can possibly be imagined, and provides the ultimate “guess the composer” party piece (try Weber or Schumann). Kreutzer’s (the German Conradin, not the French Rodolphe) Grand Septet is enchanting from beginning to end. The Minuet and the Trio of its Scherzo would make Johann Strauss beam with delight with their beguiling elegance. None of these five works are standard repertoire items, though all are represented on ArkivMusic in at least three other versions. But it would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to imagine finer, more idiomatic and persuasive performances than we have in these reissues. Thank you, Decca!
FANFARE: Robert Markow
Works on This Recording
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