Reicha: Wind Quintets

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COMPOSERS: Reicha
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Wind Quintets
PERFORMER: Academia Wind Quintet of Prague
CATALOGUE NO: CDD 22006 (Reissue)
Five instruments of radically different timbres, articulations, tuning foibles, dynamics – the wind quintet presents a formidable challenge both to write and to play. Reicha, active just as orchestras expanded to acquire five principal wind players, composed 24 quintets, symphonic in structure, extended in scale and naively tuneful: fragments of melody haunted me for days.

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In Hyperion’s reissue of three of these works, augmented by a second CD of two more, the Czech Academia Quintet plays modern instruments potentially more disparate even than their Classical originals. They weave a remarkable web of constantly varying textures. Some are truly amazing: an extended horn trill between solo flute and rocking harmonies in Op. 88/5. Yet a moment later, one single motif slithers pell-mell from top to bottom to unify the ensemble. Slow movements are exquisite, as passionate melodies unfold over slowly pulsing harmony; jovial finales test technique to the limit.

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More Czechs honour their countryman in three Reicha piano trios. The Guarneri Trio is full of ardour, from intense Beethovenian variations, through a sunny Schubertian Andantino, to three charmingly accessible finales. Reicha’s textures are progressive, instruments sharing equally the fervid, if sometimes underdeveloped, melodic imagination of a composer hitherto poorly represented on disc. George Pratt