Beethoven: Septet, Sextet - Scharoun Ensemble
Tudor SACD 7146
Classical - Chamber
Beethoven: Septet Op. 20, Sextet Op. 71
Scharoun Ensemble Berlin
Review by John Broggio - June 8, 2011
As with their previous releases, the Scharoun Ensemble play with vigour, taste and refinement to great effect and fully at the service of composers music - in this case, Beethoven.
The two works are - despite the apparently large difference suggested by the opus numbers - audibly written within 5 years of each other; Op.20 in 1800 and Op.71 thought to be in 1796. The septet Op.20 could well be considered to be a chamber version of the serenades that Mozart made famous in his offerings for the Haffner family (amongst others) and has 6 movements. Both the outer movements have a slow introduction before setting off on bubbling faster sequences - in the hands of the Scharoun Ensemble, both the Allegro con brio (1st mvt) and the Presto (finale) are given quicksilver renditions that both have a winning nod to Schubert's Octet. The eloquence of the Berlin players in the Adagio cantabile is beyond criticism and it is nice to note that the Minuet and Scherzo movements have a real sense of lift that accounts from other Berliner ensembles lacked. Whilst not thoroughly HIP in approach, string vibrato is used as ornamentally not as a constant tone thickening device and as a result the wind instruments are heard more clearly than in other recordings. Perhaps the most special part of the septet is the Theme & Variations in which every instrument gets a chance to shine, showing the many varied colours that a mere 7 instruments can generate.
In the four movement the string players are banished in favour of another 3 wind players joining from the Philharmonic. At least, that it is what the score would suggest at face value but Peter Rigelbauer (double bass) sneaks in to support the second bassoon's part. For those of an authentic persuasion, it must be noted that Rigelbauer's contribution is very sensitive and at no time does his playing overwhelm that of his colleague Henning Trog. Similar qualities displayed in the Septet mark all four movements (the virtuosity on display in the finale simply has to be heard to be believed) and the quality is such that ones thoughts turn to dreaming about how these wonderful musicians would render Mozart's great wind serenades (amongst others).
The recording, using two venues (Kammermusiksaal - Philharmonie, Teldex Studio), is consistently beautiful and accords the playing just as fine a sound as the instruments make. Despite being quite close to the musicians, never is more than a sniff of air from the winds heard, much less rosin on the strings.
Highly recommended - I've been humming the finale to both works for weeks!
Copyright © 2011 John Broggio and HRAudio.net