BEETHOVEN: Quintet in E-flat; EURICO CARRAPATOSO: Cinco Elegias; LIGETI: Six Bagatelles; STEPHEN MONTAGUE: Thule Ultima; ROSETTI: Quintet; IBERT: Three Short Pieces; EDUARDO DI CAPUA: ‘O sole mio – Ensemble Carion – Ars Produktion

by | Feb 22, 2014 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Schauspiel = BEETHOVEN: Quintet in E-flat, Op. 103; EURICO CARRAPATOSO: Cinco Elegias, Op. 11; LIGETI: Six Bagatelles; STEPHEN MONTAGUE: Thule Ultima; ROSETTI: Quintet in E-flat; IBERT: Three Short Pieces; EDUARDO DI CAPUA: ‘O sole mio – Ensemble Carion – Ars Produktion multichannel SACD ARS 38 143, 65:57 [Distr. by Naxos] ****1/2:

This is a delightful recording by a crackerjack woodwind quintet that tackles some extremely challenging music with nary an afterthought. Or at least that’s the way it sounds, which is the mark of a really fine ensemble. The music is almost all terrific stuff, starting with Beethoven’s very early Octet which he rescored later for string quintet, hence the late opus number. Here the air instruments play it with finesse and a lot of style. The Three Pieces of Ibert is a long time standard—and a worthy one at that—along with the 1953 Six Bagatelles of Ligeti, another modern stalwart in the woodwind quintet universe. Antonio Rosetti was the star of his age, and though he is pretty much ignored today, except by those intrepid collectors smart enough to seek him out, I have yet to hear anything by him less than completely engrossing, and this Quintet is proof of that. The Five Elegies by Carrapatoso are tributes to five composers that mean a lot to the composer, Bartok, Tailleferre, Webern, Messiaen, and Stravinsky, with each movement reflecting that particular composer’s style, and each also featuring a different instrument taking the lead. Only the Thule Ultima by Montague feels out of place; the piece uses only buzzing and otherwise distorted and played mouthpieces that make some truly obnoxious sounds that drove my dogs crazy. It’s the type of piece that might be interesting as a change of pace on a recital, but to be stuck with this stupidity on a recording is not acceptable. ‘O sole mio is just what you know, nicely played though hardly required listening.

The surround sound is spectacular, the peculiarities of the woodwind sound being captured by engineers who know what they are doing. I found this entire production a real pleasure to hear, and audiophiles and wind lovers—along with folks who don’t normally listen to this kind of music, or this type of ensemble—are in for a big and very enjoyable surprise.

—Steven Ritter

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