van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Clarinet Trioin B flat major, Op. 11 (1797-98) [20:43] Septet in E flat major, Op. 20 (1799-1800) [39:18] The Nash Ensemble (Michael
Collins (clarinet), Frank Lloyd (horn), Brian Wightman
(bassoon), Marcia Crayford (violin), Roger Chase (viola), Christopher
van Kampen (cello), Rodney Slatford (bass), Ian Brown (piano)) rec.
Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London, October 1989 (Trio); St. Martin’s Church, East Woodhay, Newbury,
November 1989 (Septet). DDD
VIRGIN CLASSICS 5221262[60:30]
This very apposite coupling of two of Beethoven’s early and most
delightful chamber works has been reissued before. The recordings
first came out in 1990 and then re-released as a budge double
with the Schubert Octet in the mid-1990s. At least I think these
are the same recordings, not having the earlier versions at hand.
If so, and even if not, there seems to be a glaring error in the
listing of one of the members of the Nash Ensemble in the inside
cover of the accompanying booklet that should be corrected for
future issues. The pianist for the Trio is listed as Iona Brown
vice Ian Brown. Iona Brown, of course, was the late violinist/leader/conductor
of the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and Norwegian Chamber Orchestra and not, to my knowledge,
also a pianist. Whereas, Ian Brown is indeed the regular pianist
with the Nash Ensemble! The presentation of the rather attractive
booklet also has the Clarinet Trio in B flat minor rather than
B flat major, though the French translation as listed is “majeur.”
The lighthearted Trio is naturally in the major key. The sloppiness
of the booklet does not extend to Stephen Pettitt’s excellent
notes, however. While the notes are not all that extensive, they
tell the listener about the history of each work and describe
the pieces very well. For example, it is mentioned that Beethoven
borrowed the catchy tune for the variations of the Trio’s finale
from Joseph Weigl’s opera L’amor marinaro, though initially
not to Beethoven’s knowledge. His Vienna publisher had given him the theme without revealing
its prominence. Once Beethoven found this out, he was furious.
Luckily he had already composed his nine variations which end
the Trio in great style. Likewise, the familiar minuet theme
of the Septet’s third movement is a borrowing from Beethoven’s
own Piano Sonata, Op. 49, No. 2, one of the composer’s “easy sonatas”
that many a budding pianist learns for recital.
to the disc, itself. Both performances are well known and have
been highly regarded in the past. To my knowledge this is the
only disc currently available that couples them together. The
Schubert Octet was present on their earlier incarnation as a
double disc set, but did not receive the acclaim that the Beethoven
did. Thus, it was a good idea to re-release them again as a
single. If this is priced in the budget or super-budget category,
it is a real bargain. As far as I can tell, its release in
the U.S. seems to be at mid-price. Nevertheless, this CD if or anyone who
either does not know or have these examples of the lighter side
of Beethoven. They represent some of his most tuneful and pleasant
music, showing the influences of Mozart (especially the wind
serenades) and Haydn and yet containing the unmistakable stamp
of the Beethoven to come. The Nash Ensemble’s performances
leave nothing to be desired. They are impeccable in their tuning,
and the tempos are spot-on. The players obviously relish this
music and sound like they are really enjoying themselves.
There is plenty of competition out there for these works, but
the Nash really can hold their own. I compared this recording
of the Septet with the more recent one by Gil Shaham, Truls
Mørk, et al on Arte Nova (coupled with the Beethoven Triple
Concerto) and find them about equal in merit. However, it could
be argued that the Nash has the more appropriate coupling, and
theirs is the more vibrant sounding recording.
I, therefore, welcome back these performances. Now
if EMI/Virgin will only correct the booklet!
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