BEETHOVEN; MOZART Quintets for Piano and Winds
These performances by the Swiss period-instrument ensemble Die Freitagsakademie are so full of character and incident that one can almost overlook the disc’s short playing time. To start with, the players convey a strong sense of tonal individuality rather than mellifluous homogeneity.
I often feel that Mozart’s instrumental music is at its most affecting when it suggests an operatic scene, and the fact that here one can identify each player as a distinct personality helps to underscore the music’s dramatic qualities. In the Allegro moderato section of the first movement of K452, for instance, the alternation between plaintive lyricism and strutting bravado could have been taken directly from the pages of Figaro or Don Giovanni.
Impressive, too, is the way that myriad small details are given expressive import. Listen at 4'05" in the first movement of Beethoven’s quintet to how fortepianist Edoardo Torbianelli makes his trills into mischievous flourishes, as well as to the rich variety of articulation and dynamic gradation throughout. Perhaps a few passages in Mozart’s sublime Larghetto could flow more freely, but in general these interpretations are notable for their exceptional flexibility. Note, for example, how the sequences starting at 2'17" in the finale are moulded into broad waves that draw the ear gently yet inexorably along.
Both of these works have fared extremely well on recordings, beginning with the now classic mid-1950s account by Walter Gieseking and members of the Philharmonia Orchestra (EMI). This new version by Die Freitagsakademie offers musical riches to rival the very best, and should delight even those listeners who normally shy away from period instruments.