Beethoven: String Quintet in C, Op. 29; Septet in E flat, Op. 20

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: EMI Reflexe
WORKS: String Quintet in C, Op. 29; Septet in E flat, Op. 20
PERFORMER: Hausmusik
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 7 54656 2 DDD
Hausmusik put on their wellies and stride out into the allotment for this earthy and robust performance of Beethoven’s Septet. This group, which formed itself seven years ago in order to play early Romantic music on period instruments, shows what brio really means in the opening movement, through the sprung quality of accent and attack, and the woody, less fluid quality of early clarinet and bassoon. With Chi-Chi Nwanoku at large, there is a firm, bouncy bass tread here and in the brisk, but never brusque, Adagio cantabile. The Minuet stomps along and the Scherzo whoops with the delight which both Beethoven and Hausmusik share in the individual character of each instrument.

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The String Quintet, Op. 29, is more sober stuff. Monica Huggett’s fine violin line leaves the dark, viola-rich ground of the opening close harmony to soar and sing before bringing the others down to earth. This is an unusually well-balanced performance in texture, pace and recording, though some listeners may find the heavy breathing intrusive. The poise between the restless pulse and the long, fragmented song of the slow movement is impressive, and the balance between the contrasting balm of the Scherzo and the whirring insect life of the Presto is particularly well judged. Hilary Finch