LABELS: EMI Forte
WORKS: Quintet in E flat for Piano and Wind; Fantasiestücke, Op. 73
PERFORMER: Melos Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CZS 5 72643 2 ADD Reissue (1964-70)
This well-filled double album is a handsome reminder of the collective talents of the Melos Ensemble, much-loved ambassadors of chamber music for many years. One of the Ensemble’s central figures was the pianist Lamar Crowson, who in the 1966 recording of the Mozart and Beethoven quintets with wind displays immaculate technique and subtly imaginative phrasing. However, the wind players, while a responsive team, are not uniformly refined in tone and tuning.
Among many other fine recordings of this matching pair of masterpieces, the Sony disc by Murray Perahia and players from the ECO has quite magical playing in an excellent modern recording, and at mid-price is a clear first choice. As a whole, though, this collection is still highly recommendable, not least because of its range and variety.
The Beethoven Quintet is complemented by other works including wind from the composer’s early years; the Melos’s two horns, Neill Sanders and James Buck, are impressive in the Sextet – though the accompanying strings could have been a little lighter – and in the delightful Rondino for wind octet. And after that, the set becomes a tribute to the Ensemble’s clarinettist Gervase de Peyer, a player of diamond-sharp articulation and impeccable musicianship.
With Crowson and the violist Cecil Aronowitz, he makes a strong case for Schumann’s late Fantasiestücke. And the Melos’s 1964 recording of Brahms’s great Quintet for clarinet with strings, although it now seems a little edgy in sound-quality, remains a classic of chamber music playing of the highest quality. Anthony Burton