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20th-century Chamber Music - Vienna Octet

Badings: Octet
Britten: Sinfonietta, Op. 1
Hindemith: Octet
Poot: Octet
Wellesz: Octet Op.67

Decca Eloquence - ELQ 4802406 [116 mins]

These reduced price re-issues will make us revise the Vienna Octet's "cuddly" image in UK where they toured with standard repertoire, to satisfy audience tastes - that if only according to concert promoters demands. That limitation still holds, which is why - alongside live concertgoing - recordings are so very important if one is to hope to gain a wider perception of international activity, and we live in a time when groups are now looking more and more to unfamiliar repertoire to make their mark in the overcrowded market place.

Some may be surprised to learn that the Vienna Octet played a great deal of the most innovative music of their time back home, and recorded these examples in Vienna.

The first Octet which they commissioned, and one of the best, is that of the Belgian Marcel Poot, which will surprise most of our readers; an important composer in his own coutry, almost unknown in UK.

Concise, witty and expert in giving soloistic opportunities for everyone, it deserves to be far better known. The first of them to be recorded too, produced in Vienna by John Culshaw (of Solti's Ring fame) in 1956, this is a winner; you'd never guess its age. Egon Wellesz's octet, though never surprising, is a welcome discovery, with solos for all and with a grave beauty in its slower music - by turns "serene, sultry, almost sleepy" - [Tully Potter].

Potter's deeply researched notes are hugely interesting and informative; but it would help if the names of the six composers had been highlighted in BOLD within his wide ranging text.

Peter Grahame Woolf