Following its critically acclaimed debut, Mozart: Divertimenti , the SCO Wind Soloists continue to explore the Harmoniemusik repertoire of the eighteenth century. The new recording features youthful, entertaining and brilliant music by a young man who took Vienna by storm in the 1790s: Ludwig van Beethoven.
In the Sextet in E flat major, Beethoven exploits the differing characteristics of the pairs of clarinet, bassoon and horn to great effect with the SCO’s legendary interplay on full display. All four movements fall into established Viennese classical patterns, though with a characteristically sharper edge.
The underrated Octet in E flat major is a technically challenging concert piece in the Mozart tradition, but with the flair and unpredictability of the young Beethoven. Notable for its high-flying, virtuoso writing for the horns (arpeggios were something of a second horn visiting card) each instrument is given the opportunity to shine; the oboe takes the lead in the first three movements, partnering the bassoon in an operatic duet in the Andante; the ensemble colour changes abruptly when a virtuoso clarinet is unleashed to lead the finale.
Another gem is the short but sweet Rondino in E flat major, which is full of subtle details and exquisite melodies. The oboe writing is confident and the clarinet is taken boldly into the chalumeau register, but it’s defined by the exhilaratingly high-speed playing of the duetting horns who display a wonderful array of melting, floating and dying-away effects; the radical use of horn mutes expand the range of expression yet further.