Gaudier Ensemble

Beethoven: Serenade, Op. 25; Quintet for piano & winds, Op. 16; Clarinet Trio, Op. 11

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For listeners to whom Beethoven means the heroic Beethoven of the Third Symphony or the humanist Beethoven of Fidelio or the transcendent Beethoven of the Missa Solemnis or the philosophic Beethoven of the late quartets, this 2006 disc by England's Gaudier Ensemble will come as a shock -- a pleasant shock but still a shock. Featuring three relatively early and comparatively unknown chamber works for various combinations of winds, strings, and piano, this Beethoven is witty, charming, sensitive, and altogether captivating. As performed here with deft technique and ineffable delight by the Gaudier Ensemble, the dry humor of the Opus 11 Trio for clarinet, cello, and piano's closing variations on an aria from Weigl's L'amour marinaro, the laugh-out-loud humor of the Opus 16 Quintet for piano, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and horn's opening Grave -- Allegro ma non troppo, and the effervescent humor of the Opus 25 Serenade for flute, violin, and viola's closing Adagio-Allegro vivace e disinvolto -- Presto are all absolutely enthralling. If Beethoven had not lived to write anything after the Opus 25, he would be remembered as a no less worthy albeit a wholly different composer. Hyperion's sound is rich, warm, and lucid with plenty of detail and lots of depth.

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