WORKS: Partitas, Op. 45; Marches, Op. 31
PERFORMER: Academy of St Martin in the Fields Wind Ensemble/Bastiaan Blomhert
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9905
These discs vividly display the risks and rewards of period wind instruments. The ASMF Wind Ensemble plays the symphonic-scale Partitas Op. 45 interspersed with lightweight ceremonial marches. Its deft technique, supported by the fluent mechanisms and tonal congruence of modern instruments, creates a warm and fearless sound. It tends to underplay the glorious cantabile of slow movement and trio melodies, and the Krommer trick of two-beat music in three-four time (Op. 45/1). Recorded sound is excellent, though the players themselves miss subtleties of balance – rumbustious horn harmonies swamping melodic oboe for instance. There are some dazzling moments: slick-tongued horns, and boundless energy as sequences whirl endlessly downward in the first movement of Op. 45/3.
By contrast, Nachtmusique’s period instruments, some copies, some authentic survivors of the early 19th century, are hair-raising. Their repertoire includes three newly discovered sextets (clarinets, horns, bassoons), which make staggering demands. Natural horns gyrating in the stratosphere (the first E flat Partita) must be heard to be believed. Timbral qualities of each instrumental pair are much more distinctive than their modern descendants, yet their complementary blend is delicious. Burlesque (a ludicrous take-off of bagpipes), a group of clarinet-viola trios and four variations on a Pleyel tune delightfully evoke a noble household’s easy-listening in late 18th-century Bohemia. George Pratt