BEETHOVEN: Septet Op. 20; STRAUSS: Till Eulenspiegel einmal anders! – OSM Chamber Soloists/ Andrew Wan – Analekta 

The Chamber Society of Montreal makes pure magic of Beethoven’s Septet and an arrangement of Richard Strauss.

BEETHOVEN: Septet in E-flat Major, Op. 20/R. STRAUSS: Till Eulenspiegel einmal anders! – OSM Chamber Soloists/ Andrew Wan – Analekta AN 2 8788, 50:00  (3/16/18) [Distr. by E1] ****:

Beethoven composed his Septet in 1799, much as a “preparation” for his First Symphony. An immediate success, the piece utilizes the Tempo di minuetto third movement for his Op. 49, No. 2 Piano Sonata in G Major (1795). All the movements of Op. 20 are in major keys, making the work as a whole energetically upbeat. In six movements, the Septet resembles the divertimentos and cassations popular in Vienna at the time. The first movement features a strong violin solo in the manner of a concertante piece. Beethoven’s deft blend of winds attests to a young master of timbre balance. The French horn has a marvelous part in the Adagio. The fourth movement proffers a set of variations on a Rhineland tune, Ach schiffer, lieber schiffer. The scoring of one instrument per part allows the cello and the bassoon to move higher up in range than Mozart or Haydn would have permitted. The immediate popularity of the Septet came to pester Beethoven, who felt it overshadowed his more serious pieces.

Richard Strauss wrote his symphonic poem Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks in 1895. The actual Till died in 1350, and his story of rebellions against authority led to a legend. In this arrangement for five instruments by Franz Hasenoehrl (1895-1970), entitled Till Eulenspiegel einmal anders! (Till Eulenspiegel Differently, for Once) was premiered in 1954. It shortens the otherwise 18-minute work by omitting repeats and transitions.

The level of ensemble—brilliantly captured in sound by Carl Talbot and Christopher Johns—proves infectious, with the timbre of the French, horn, viola, clarinet, bassoon, and double bass resonant throughout every bar of music. With all apologies to Beethoven for having highly recommended his Septet, this piece time again testifies to a natural colorist for the divertimento group.  The Strauss adds a spry treat.

—Gary Lemco

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