Ma'alot Quintett

Beethoven: Harmoniemusik for Wind Quintet

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Arrangements of Beethoven's music for winds were made during his own time, but these were done specifically for the Ma'alot Quintett (German despite its Hebrew name). In both the arrangement and the manner of performance they differ from the usual run of wind transcriptions; they're not, except in the most literal sense, reductions of the music to smaller forces, made for purposes of convenience, but rethinkings of the music that set out to exploit the instruments to the fullest. One might reasonably ask why this was necessary, but the disc is enjoyable taken on its own terms. Annotator Helga Lühning notes that modern listeners have to rethink Beethoven's theatrical music anyhow -- for various reasons, most of it is difficult or impossible to realize today in its original contexts. And the quintet, pushing its instruments just slightly out of control, gives the music a truly Beethovenian feel. Try the opening music from Egmont, Op. 84, especially the beginning of the final "Siegessymphonie," track 7. The music for The Ruins of Athens, Op. 113, underrated for its contributions to Beethoven's late style, has a good deal of wind writing in it to begin with, and the arrangements by Ulf-Guido Schäfer retain these while differentiating them from thicker orchestral textures. Not an essential item even for the well-stocked Beethoven shelf, but certainly nothing less than an absorbing oddity.

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