Beethoven’s Music for Winds from SCO Wind Soloists

Beethoven: Music for Winds

Scottish Chamber Orchestra Wind Soloists

The main works on this latest offering from the SCO Winds are the Sextet in E flat Major, Op. 71 and the Octet in E flat major, Op. 103 both of which are early examples of Beethoven’s craft despite the high opus numbers! We also get a duo and a rondino together with the Marsch und Trio für Militärmusik WoO29.

Scottish Chamber Orchestra Winds

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra has always enjoyed a strong wind section but the line-up, including bassoonist Peter Whelan¹ and horn player Alec Frank-Gemmill, on this recording is strong even by their standards.

One might be tempted to begin one’s listening with the relative well-known octet but that would be to miss a treat. When listening to the opening sextet in this performance, I get a sense of opera come over me – I see colourful characters on the stage who at times are dancing, at others laughing, arguing and sometimes sighing. This gets the CD off to a great start with the six instrumentalists playing with a mix of togetherness and individuality that is truly inspiring, especially in the middle movements.

The early and underrated Octet is nonetheless a technically challenging piece. It is clearly written in the style of Mozart, but it is full of flair with a sense of unpredictability that Mozart could not have conceived. Already there are signs of Beethoven’s great creativity.² This work is again played to a high standard on this release even if it does not quite match up to the performances by the Wind Soloists of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe or the Melos Ensemble.

It is possible that the Duo No. 1 in C major WoO 27/1 is not by Beethoven at all but who cares – the enjoyment of Peter Whelan and clarinettist Maximiliano Martin playing this piece is all too clear even if it is not the greatest music ever written.

The recording was made in North Leith Parish Church, in 2016, and the Linn engineers have effectively captured the resonance of the building’s acoustic. This is most definitely a CD that will bring a smile to your face as you listen to the music making – go out and buy it!

iClassical rating: 

Purchase from Linn Records.

¹ Peter Whelan has since left the group no doubt due to his being in demand as a conductor as well as a soloist and leader of his Ensemble Marsyas.

² It has been said that Haydn sent the score of Beethoven’s octet to a patron with the remark that ’Beethoven will in time become one of the greatest musical artists in Europe’.