Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet; Hendrik Heilmann, Piano; Manfred Preis, Bass Clarinet;
Total Playing Time 78'50
Our latest CD features three composers born in what is now the Czech Republic; a varied offering, opening with a wind quintet by Anton Reicha, who in the early 19th century ‘invented’ the entire genre, and closing with one of the absolute pinnacles in 20th-century chamber music for winds, namely Janáček’s Mládí (‘Youth’) from 1924. Framed by these two is Martinů’s Sextet for piano and winds, written in Paris in 1929 and with echoes of both Bohemian music and jazz elements in a mix typical for this composer. If the musical styles are diverse, so are the sonorities: in fact, the only work scored for ‘regular’ wind quintet is Reicha's Quintet in E flat major. But the 'father of the wind quintet' also experimented with exchanging a cor anglais for the oboe in the three rarely heard separate pieces included here. As for Martinů, he added a piano to the quintet, but at the same time replaced the horn with a second bassoon, and made one of the five movements, a brief Scherzo, into a virtuosic duo for flute and piano alone. Another duo – for piccolo and piano – is also included here: Janáček’s two-minute-long March of the Bluebirds. The piece sprang from a childhood memory, and when Janáček some months later began composing Mládí, based on recollections of his youth, he revised it to form the third movement of the suite. Like the other movements it is scored for wind quintet and bass clarinet – another unusual combination – but Janáček retained certain characteristics of the original by having the flutist alternate between flute and piccolo.
"the Berlin Philharmonic Quintet plays with perfect intonation and balance. Every one of the seemingly unlimited range of colors that Reicha draws from his ensemble tells with unobtrusive clarity, and the works are perfectly paced. The last of the pieces for English horn and wind quartet, an adagio in siciliano rhythm, is particularly haunting, and it marries well with the second movement of Mládí. The Martinu performance also has an appealing lightness, with nicely sprung rhythms and the composer's jazz inflections relished, but not to the point of affectation. For the intelligence of the program as a whole, not to mention the outstanding sonics, this disc remains very recommendable." 9/10
Classics Today 21.10.2011