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Mozart and Beethoven Piano / wind quintets


Mozart K452, Beethoven Op 16 (both in E flat)
Van Immerseel (fortepiano) / Octophorus
Accent Plus 10038
These two works are regularly coupled -  always to the detriment of the Beethoven, which is a much earlier work in the composer's output.
Hearing a period recording (this is one of Accent's 25th anniversary reissues) radically changes one's view of the works, and makes the Beethoven seem more a different animal, not a poor imitation.
The fortepiano is lighter in weight (and tonal quality) than the modern piano, and the period wind instruments are more rough-hewn. The Mozart, therefore, becomes not a chamber concerto but a wind serenade with keyboard obbligato. It is much easier to understand why Mozart himself praised this piece as his best to date, above therefore the quartets dedicated to Haydn, the Sinfonia Concertante, or a number of the piano concertos and symphonies. It must have been because he was so happy to solve the compositional problem of writing something both for the light-hearted, fashionable wind ensemble genre, and the keyboard style in which he was himself the leading innovator. He could satisfy himself and his public at once, be simultaneously pleasing and deep.
In comparison, the Beethoven's piano part has always seemed too big and prone to overwhelm the winds. On the lighter instrument, it feels much better; this now sounds like a well-constructed chamber concerto. The doublings and big chords were there as the only way to bulk out the sound against the fat winds.
Pleasing performances, of which the highlight is the real brio and flow of the Beethoven first movement. Sadly, though, the other two parts of the Beethoven are disappointingly routine, and the over-deliberate tempo for the finale is especially ill-chosen. The overwhelming impression of the Mozart is how strong the wind presence is within the sound picture, at times Immerseel is almost drowned, but no doubt authentically so. These are players well-established as period performers; the disc will not fail to interest and to please.
Ying Chang