WORKS: Septet in E flat, Op. 20; Octet
PERFORMER: Berlin Philharmonic Octet
CATALOGUE NO: NI 5461 DDD
Am I alone in finding Beethoven’s celebrated Septet one of the dullest works in the standard repertoire? Mellifluously dull, beautifully crafted, I grant, but taking an inordinate length of time to say not very much. I draw some comfort from the fact that the composer himself, in later years, was irritated by its perennial popularity. If any performance could reconcile me to the piece, it would surely be one as stylish, as lovingly prepared, and as warmly recorded as this offering from the Berlin Philharmonic Octet; but the Septet’s substance still isn’t sharply profiled enough to stop my attention from wandering.
I was positively glad of the rather portentous rhetoric that opens Hindemith’s Octet. In sum, this late work may not be much more weighty than the Beethoven, but its various movements have greater concision and point and, on the whole, offer (to me, at any rate) a more nourishing musical experience. This is a very good performance indeed (the bass player, Rainer Zepperitz, played alongside Hindemith himself in the 1958 premiere) and it is beautifully recorded. A safely recommendable version of either piece. Calum MacDonald