Beethoven: Complete Works for Winds and Brass, Vol. 2

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
WORKS: Complete Works for Winds and Brass, Vol. 2
PERFORMER: Ottetto Italiano, Genoa CO/Antonio Plotino
Forget the lone, furrow-browed visionary. With the exception of the austere, hieratic Equali for three trombones (performed, in an arrangement for male voices, at the composer’s funeral), this is Beethoven the convivial purveyor of entertainment music. The marches, polonaise and ecossaise, complete with ‘Turkish’ percussion, have an infectious strut and swagger – the kind of fashionable military music Beethoven sublimated in the opening movement of the contemporary Emperor Concerto. Elsewhere the Titan is at his most urbanely and wittily Mozartian. The unfinished E flat Quintet (for the unlikely scoring of oboe, three horns and bassoon) has a shapely, deep-toned Adagio, with tenderly florid writing for the first horn, while the airy Trio for two oboes and cor anglais makes ingenious capital out of slender resources: its impish Minuet is one of Beethoven’s earliest true scherzos. The variations on ‘La cì darem’ for the same combination put Mozart’s tune through its paces with delightful irreverence. Though period instruments would bring an added pungency to these charming, undemanding works, Ottetto Italiano plays with elegance, zest and a keen feeling for the music’s wit and colour. An hour of stress-free late-night listening. Richard Wigmore