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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Quintet for Piano and Winds in E flat, K452 (1784) [23:33]
Franz DANZI (1763-1826)
Quintet in D minor, Op. 41 for Piano, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn and Bassoon (1785?) [26:14]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Quintet in E flat major for piano and winds, Op.16 (1796) [25:54]
Christian Ihle Hadland (piano)
Oslo Kammerakademi
rec. 2018, Fredrikstad Cathedral, Norway.
LAWO LWC1187 [75:00]

This CD includes two very familiar, and connected, chamber works, the Beethoven influenced by the Mozart. This has given me the opportunity to discover this fresh recording and also to refer to others that I have in my collection. I have sets with Walter Gieseking and an ensemble including the “Royal family” with Dennis Brain (1956) on Testament, Vladimir Ashkenazy and the London Wind Soloists (1966) on Decca, Murray Perahia and members of the ECO (1986) on Sony and a 1994 disc from Daniel Barenboim and friends on Erato, which we reviewed on reissue.

Michael Cookson liked Stephen Hough and BPO Soloists (2000/2004), on BIS and I sampled some movements and thought them very fine. From 1985, Michael also admired the smoother sound of André Previn and Viennese Soloists, splendidly recorded by Telarc from which I sampled and enjoyed the Beethoven; like coffee with whipped cream and cake. Finally, for a different kind of rendition, I have Robert Levin and AAM Soloists, on “Original Instruments” in a large “L’Oiseau Lyre, Classical & early Romantic” box or it can be found on a single mid-price reissue on Decca. They are, therefore works that I’ve known and loved for over thirty years.
Whilst these Norwegian performers are new to me, Göran Forsling in his review of a Simax collection called “The Lark” confirmed that Hadland has, for more than ten years, made for himself a name as one of the foremost Norwegian classical musicians; and this as accompanist, chamber musician and solo pianist. He has previous reviewed him accompanying Isa Katharina Gericke in a song recital that was a tribute to Eva Nansen and together with violinist Henning Kraggerud in a delightful programme with music by Christian Sinding. Christian has also recorded Mozart Piano Concertos 21 and 22 for Simax. We don’t appear to have reviewed this as yet but, as they’re two much loved works and I hope to do so.

Their publicity advises that during their first ten years, the Oslo Kammerakademi has released a number of acclaimed recordings on LAWO Classics, Reviews of previous releases can be found in MusicWeb International. Dominy Clements clearly warmed to their Beethoven, also on Lawo and Gwyn Parry-Jones gave a generally a positive review for their disc of Mozart serenades.

This, their, anniversary year - along with pianist Christian Ihle Hadland – “offer some extra special treats for piano and winds!” The Kammerakademi (David Friedman Strunck (oboe), Pierre Xhonneux (clarinet), Steinar Granmo Nilsen (natural horn), Alessandro Caprotti (bassoon)) play on modern instruments, apart from the natural horn player, and that gives the band sound a splendid blasting frisson.

Mozart wrote the following in a letter to his father on April 10, 1784 about his Quintet in E-flat major, KV 452 for piano and four winds: "I hold it to be the best work I have ever written. It certainly is one of his finest chamber works with the effective blending of Piano and selected winds. The slightly younger composer Danzi was from Mannheim, where Mozart a few years earlier had become acquainted with the city's renowned court orchestra, which in itself was pioneering. The orchestra was known, among other things, for using the winds to a much greater soloistic extent than what was considered the norm in Mozart's hometown of Salzburg. Danzi's biggest accomplishment as a composer was his ability to place winds on the map through a large number of chamber music works. Beethoven's quintet makes clear references to Mozart's trailblazing work for this instrumentation. He chooses the same key, and the work possesses the same external structure as Mozart's, but the content is completely different. Beethoven displays an emotional depth whereas Mozart sets himself on a divergent track. There are notes, translated by Hadland but sadly in tiny print on turquoise background that I struggled to read.

The Mozart Quintet goes very well indeed with the pianist and his four colleagues very much in accord. The cheerful and confident “allegro moderato” develops organically from the opening “largo” and Nilsen is particularly strong which reminds me of dear old Dennis Brain in the recording with Philharmonia colleagues and Gieseking. His rasping sounds are most affecting in the “larghetto’, which Mozart had every right to be pleased with. The movement is very beautiful but it has also has an inner strength. The final “Allegro” is a triumphant success lead by Hadland, rather like a reduced piano concerto. The ending reminded me of the beginning of Piano Concerto No. 19 K459, and when I checked, it was completed in December 1784, a few months later.

Danzi’s quintet was new to me and I guess to many others. A 3 CD set of his wind quintets, performed by Love Derwinger (piano) with Philharmonisches Bläserquintett, Berlin, from the 1990s and compiled in 2006 is on Bis and has been reviewed here by Dominy Clements. His appraisal gives a very good description of the music’s qualities: “This music is what we impresarios describe to clients as ‘light classical’, but as with many such cases, the more you listen, the more there is to enjoy. Like a Fragonard painting, you can enjoy it as entertaining fluff, and then you can look closer at the detail, the individual characters and the way they interact, and discover that there is more to the work than meets the eye at first glance”. Opus 41 is more evenly matched, with subtle dialogues between piano and winds having more in common with the playful way in which Danzi employs such exchanges during the wind quintets”. A Danzi quintet was later arranged by Eugen Bodart’s in 1970s as “Sinfonia concertante for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon and orchestra”. Interested listeners can find this on “Concertante” performed by “Les Vents Français” on Warner.

Before I played the Oslo Kammerakademi version, I listened on Amazon HD to the Love Derwinger version and found the work a pleasant divertissement but not much more than that. Here, on the Lawo recording, which seems to have struck the right balance, I enjoyed the piece much more. Despite extensive research, I have been unable to ascertain a date for its composition (1785?). The first movement, like the Mozart, begins “Larghetto” before developing into a playful “Allegro”. Pianist Hadland is well in tune with the other players and again the horn adds its rasp. The “Andante sostenuto” is really entrancing and here the other three instruments come to the fore in an alluring manner. There is a real pastoral air which was entirely suitable for a Sunday afternoon, when I was playing it. The final “Allegro’ is a very cheerful movement with the melody spreading from the piano. It’s a piece that deserves to be heard more often, certainly in such a dedicated performance. It is very sad that Danzi was inspired by Mozart and his wife Margarethe Marchand, a pupil of Leopold Mozart, to follow the “Singspiel” tradition of “Die Entführung aus dem Serail” (1782) and “Die Zauberflöte” (1791) but abandoned this on his wife’s untimely death. He did however help Carl Maria von Weber (1786 –1826), a relation of Constanze Mozart, composer of “Der Freischütz” and “Oberon”, amongst others.

In 1787, the seventeen year old, Beethoven, left Bonn and went to Vienna. He visited Mozart, who was apparently unwell and in a foul mood. "Play something", he told Beethoven. Beethoven played the opening of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor. "Not that", said Mozart. "Anybody can play that. Play something of your own." So, Beethoven did. Apparently, Mozart was suitably impressed and said to his wife, afterwards: "Watch out for that boy. One day he will give the world something to talk about." Unfortunately, Beethoven’s father became dangerously ill and he had to return to Bonn and never saw Mozart again. Four years later, worn out, Mozart aged 35 was dead. Beethoven clearly greatly admired the older composer, although Haydn was more of an influence in his earlier compositions. As Hadland mentions, Beethoven later did variations on two arias from “Die Zauberflöte” and his only opera “Fidelio’ clearly owes a debt to Mozart. This is felt particularly in the moving Act One quartet, “Mir ist so wunderbar” with its appreciative nod to “Soave sia il vento” from “Cosi Fan Tutte”. He also wrote cadenzas for the above mentioned Piano Concerto No. 20, as memorably recorded by Sviatoslav Richter and the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Stanislaw Wislocki, which I have in a box set on DG.

The beginning of the Beethoven Quintet is quite startling as, during the “Grave”, the melodious piano is offset by the blasting winds, chiefly the horn. It certainly is a special effect but I’m not sure I’d want it for every day. Then the melody develops into the main argument as the pianist and the wind players converse. For those, like my late dad and Thomas Beecham, who felt Beethoven could be too ‘grand’ this is a splendid tonic and is one reason why I love the piece so much, even though, or because, it owes so much to Mozart. The slow movement “Andante Cantabile” never fails to move me and these players give an inspiring performance with a hint of “sand in the oyster shell to make the pearl”. Here communion between the instruments is vital and it is certainly true here with subtle felicitations (twiddles) from the pianist. I was enjoying the finale “Rondo” when the CD went into spasms; fortunately it was fine after a good clean. The only other negative is the cardboard case which houses the CD and the booklet; getting the latter out tore the front cover. I really prefer the conventional plastic case. My pleasure from this recital was unabated and is a real joy from start to finish. I will be exploring the recordings from these musicians and look forward to future issues.

This is a splendid set and although, as you will see, there is fierce competition, I would certainly want to add it to my shelves; the Danzi is a pleasing discovery.

David R Dunsmore

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