Beethoven and the art of arrangement

Pale green early floral

Ensemble DeNOTE
Omnibus Classics CC5007
Grand Trio op. 38 (after the Septet op. 20) & Piano Quartet op. 16 (after quintet for piano and winds)

Following the 18th-century tradition of arranging larger-scale compositions for chamber ensemble, we have on this disc Beethoven’s own arrangement of the six-movement Septet op. 20, which he calls Grand Trio op. 38, and a lost quintet for piano and winds arranged as a piano quartet, op. 16. Many such arrangements tend to lose their instrumental colour, which no doubt is why we hear so little of Salomon’s arrangements of Haydn’s London symphonies nowadays. Here the Septet arrangement is dominated by the mellow tone of the Jane Booth’s period clarinet and (presumably a copy of) a Viennese-sounding fortepiano played by John Irving. The keyboard part naturally has much of the work to do, leaving the cello line more or less intact. The less well-known piano quartet (for string trio and fortepiano) is performed by Marcus Barcham-Stevens, Peter Collyer and Ruth Alford. Such is the ensemble’s attention to period ‘authenticity’ that the pitch used is A=430, and the keyboard tuning to a suitable Classical period temperament, which adds to the subtlety of the exquisite fortepiano playing. The string playing is always stylish, and free from excessive vibrato. The booklet, all in English, gives a general account of the background of the works and extensive performers’ biographies.

Ian Graham-Jones