Mozart: Oboe Quartet in F, K370; Horn Quintet in E flat, K407; Quintet in E flat for Piano and Wind, K452

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Oboe Quartet in F, K370; Horn Quintet in E flat, K407; Quintet in E flat for Piano and Wind, K452
PERFORMER: Gaudier Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67277
If you want a disc to demonstrate Mozart’s uncanny feeling for the individual character and colour of wind instruments, then this could well be the answer. The gloriously inventive Piano and Wind Quintet is complemented by the delightful Horn Quintet and Oboe Quartet, both of which capture the essence of their solo instruments within a true chamber style. Then, as a bonus, the Gaudier throws in a movement for the (surely) unique combination of clarinet, basset-horn and string trio which Mozart began around 1789 and abandoned after sketching the exposition. In the Eighties, Erik Smith added the missing instrumental parts for the recording in the Philips Mozart Edition. But here Duncan Druce goes much further, providing a plausibly Mozartian development, recapitulation and coda. The upshot is an engaging piece full of fascinating interplay (from Mozart and Druce) between the two deep-toned woodwind soloists.

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This performance, led by Richard Hosford and Nicholas Rodwell, is as elegant and alluring as you could wish. In the main works, too, the Gaudier is first-rate. Phrasing is not merely stylish but imaginatively alive, balance well-nigh ideal, and tempi shrewdly chosen: the 3/8 slow movements of both quintets, for instance, often over-indulged, are lyrically relaxed but never languid. In the Piano and Wind Quintet I especially enjoyed Susan Tomes’s crystalline, singing tone and graceful phrasing, and the spontaneous-sounding give-and-take between the wind instruments, each one relishing its appointed role in Mozart’s quasi-operatic ensemble. In this work the competition, headed by Brendel, Holliger and co. (Philips) and Perahia with a group of English wind players (Sony), is particularly fierce. Typically, the Brendel/Holliger version is the wittiest and most impulsive of all. But for refinement, colour and vitality of characterisation the Gaudier can hold its own against all comers. Richard Wigmore