WORKS: Wind Octet in E flat, Op. 103; Rondino in E flat, WoO 25; March in B flat, WoO 29; Duo for Clarinet and Bassoon in C, WoO 27/1; Sextet in E flat, Op. 71
PERFORMER: Mozzafiato/Charles Neidich
CATALOGUE NO: SK 53367 DDD
The remit envisaged for the wind ensemble Mozzafiato by its founding director, clarinettist Charles Neidich, was to create performances of verve, spontaneity and wit, together with the unique colouristic and timbral characteristics of the wind groups, or ‘Harmonien’, which enjoyed huge popularity throughout the 18th century. On all counts, these criteria have been brilliantly addressed in this fine issue devoted to wind ensemble music by Beethoven. Each of the works performed dates from the 1790s, long before Beethoven chose to pursue idealistic or heroic issues in music, and when much of his output was still largely utilitarian in concept. Indeed, the Octet, Op. 103, was originally intended as ‘Tafelmusik’ (literally ‘table’ or entertainment music) and performed as such for the Elector of Bonn. Mozzafiato has also recorded its original finale, the Rondino, WoO 25, while the entire composition was reworked twice: first it became the String Quintet, Op. 4, and, later still, another hand arranged it into a piano trio.
Beethoven insisted that he completed the other substantial work here, the Sextet in E flat, Op. 71, ‘in a single night’; despite such implausible claims, it was not heard until 1805. The tiny 20-bar March, perhaps a military field piece or even a fragment composed for the musical clocks (‘Flötenuhr’) much in vogue at the time, precedes a work of disputed provenance. The Duo for Clarinet and Bassoon is the first of a set of three such works which, if they are in fact by Beethoven at all, are student exercises from his Bonn years. Mozzafiato plays with formidable panache and accuracy on modern reproductions of instruments of the period throughout this lively and informative programme. Michael Jameson