This modest piece shares with Beethoven's more substantial wind Octet the year of composition, key, and scoring (pairs of oboes, clarinets, horns, and bassoons), and in fact was probably composed originally as an alternate finale for that work. It's one of many pieces Beethoven composed as "table music" for the court of Maximilian Franz, Elector of Cologne, in whose service he had been since 1784. In contrast to the energetic Octet, this is a mellower work, an Andante that begins with a spacious, horn-flavored melody serving as a refrain; it makes two varied and embellished returns, the first with tender filigrees from the non-melody instruments, and the second with lightly witty little flourishes from the oboes and clarinets. In between come two minor-mode episodes, gentle nocturnes; the first features the clarinet in a plaintive little aria, and the second is a substantial duet for the horns. The coda fades into the distance, but not before requiring the horns to play an extended passage alternately unmuted and muted, which must have been a challenge to the players of the time, who had to hand-stop some notes on their valveless instruments.
Description by James Reel
|2013||Lawo Classics||LWC 1036|
|2004||Alpha Productions / Glossa||GCD 920606|
|2000||Sony Music Distribution||65951|
|1997||Deutsche Grammophon||453 779-2GCB2|
|1994||Sony Music Distribution||53367|