Ensemble 360

Beethoven: Septet in E flat, Op. 20; Serenade in D, Op. 25

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Though the music on this disc may not fit the stereotypical vision of Ludwig van Beethoven as a heaven-storming Prometheus, it may be all the more appropriate for casual listeners exactly because of that. Played with supple virtuosity and evident delight by the English chamber group Ensemble 360, the German master's Septet for winds and strings and Serenade for violin, viola, and flute have rarely been performed with such charm and style. Nothing here is especially deep; even the septet's Adagio cantabile and the serenade's Andante con Variazioni, as lyrically effusive as they are, do not touch the profundities of the composer's piano sonatas and string quartets of the same period. But with Ensemble 360's effortless technique and sympathetic interplay, the pieces emerge as beguiling as any of Mozart's lighter work, though with the rougher accent and more robust sense of humor for which Beethoven was known. Captured in clean but evocative sound, this disc will likely please longtime fans of the composer, as well as listeners who only know his greatest hits but are looking for something more.

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