REICHA: Woodwind Quintets (Volume 7) = Op. 99, Nos. 1 & 2 – Westwood Wind Quintet – Crystal

by | Jun 10, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

REICHA: Woodwind Quintets (Volume 7) = Op. 99, Nos. 1 & 2 – Westwood Wind Quintet – Crystal CD 267, 72:26 ****:

Crystal is now up to the third release of its Reicha cycle. This is the most significant issue since that of the Albert Schweitzer Quintet from 1995, and the comparison readings are most welcome.

A comparison with the CPO reading of Op. 99:1 shows that the Schweitzer takes all of the metronome markings very seriously. The resulting speeds, brilliant and technically phenomenal, make for some compelling listening, though one has to wonder whether such speeds were ever taken, especially when you take into consideration the state of wind playing at that time. The Westwood approaches the issue from a completely different standpoint, making the assumption ahead of time that such tempi were not in keeping with good musical standards and common sense. Therefore their tempos in this music are a good deal slower in many places. The result is less virtuosity, yet sometimes more meaningful phrasing and melodic contour. Some things simply cannot be heard properly at certain tempos.

Having said this, there is no question in my mind that the Reicha markings are genuine. Reicha often said that he was trying to elevate the state of wind playing, and upping the markings would certainly do this from a purely technical standpoint. In trying to elevate the standard to show that winds could be just as facile as stringed instruments, he may have gone beyond the boundaries of what one could reasonably expect from a wind instrument. Nevertheless, the music stands as is, and the Westwood has chosen a different path. This is a valid and even necessary approach to this music that pays dividends. The sound is greatly improved since one of the earlier issues in the series, and this is shaping up nicely as one of the Benchmark Reicha sets.

— Steven Ritter


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