Beethoven transformed volume 1

Boxwood & Brass
Resonus Res10249

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This is the first volume of a projected exploration of Harmonie-Musik, including original music by Beethoven, as well as arrangements of his music by his contemporaries – hence the ‘transformed’. Thus it is that we have an arrangement for the standard Harmonie ensemble of two clarinets, two horns and two bassoons of Beethoven’s celebrated Septet, originally conceived for strings and wind. I have always struggled slightly to like Beethoven’s Septet – a disgraceful admission for a clarinettist – and remember vividly my heart sinking when, during a performance by the BPO Soloists, it dawned on me that they were going to do all the repeats… So it came as a surprise to hear the piece afresh in Czerny’s clever arrangement. To cover the violin part, he takes the first clarinet into risky and exciting altissimo territory, realised with enormous skill and panache on her boxwood clarinet by Emily Worthington. Perhaps it is precisely Beethoven’s rather cautious writing for the wind instruments in the original op 20 that failed to charm me – whatever the reason, Czerny’s arrangement is a valuable rediscovery, which to my mind enhances the original. The Septet’s companion piece on this CD is one of Beethoven’s actual Sextets, a later work (op 71), by which time the composer felt free to be more adventurous with the wind instruments. Both works are given charming performances by Boxwood and Brass, and indeed the distinctive sounds of their period instruments help to bring this music vividly to life. I have enjoyed very much both of the previous CDs by this enterprising group, and await with interest the continuation of this promising series.

D. James Ross

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