Mozart's big 250th birthday bash may have ended, but he's not the kind of composer we put on the back burner just because the party's over. The Boston Symphony Chamber Players agree. Their most recent recording is a collection of chamber music by Mozart.
The group formed in 1964 during Erich Leinsdorf's tenure as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Principal players from the BSO make up this distinguished chamber ensemble. On this new release, these top musicians perform four chamber works for winds and strings, three of which Mozart wrote with specific virtuoso wind players in mind.
Mozart composed the Quartet in F for Oboe and Strings for Friedrich Ramm, an oboist who had become a member of the Mannheim court orchestra at age 14. By the time Mozart first met Ramm, the oboist was already using Mozart's Oboe Concerto as his calling card. Mozart was impressed. He said Ramm played with a "pleasingly pure tone" and was a "decent, cheerful" fellow. Maybe Mozart was trying to write a quartet that matched Ramm's character, because this quartet is certainly light and cheerful. In the first movement, the violin states the main theme, providing a launching pad for the oboe to leap up to its highest range.
Mozart composed the Quintet in E-flat for Horn and Strings for the player who premiered his horn concertos, Joseph Leutgeb. Mozart caught up with Leutgeb after the horn virtuoso moved to Vienna to open a cheese shop. This quintet has often been described as a miniature concerto, probably because the melodic lines are so similar to the ones in Mozart's horn concertos. Rather than using a standard string quartet with two violins, Mozart complements the range of the horn by adding a second viola. He exploits these textures most noticeably in the middle, slow movement. On this CD, James Sommerville takes his time, giving us more opportunity to marvel at his rich, warm tone as the sound of his horn melts over the string accompaniment.
Anton Stadler was a clarinetist who was a member of Mozart's circle of friends. He was known for his ability to bring out the lustrous colors in the lower register of the instrument. Mozart took full advantage of Stadler's gift when he wrote the Quintet in A for Clarinet and Strings. Clarinetist William R. Hudgins of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players performs this quintet with a sense of abandon. His pure tone and relaxed delivery enhance each savory note of what became known as "Stadler's Quintet." Mozart extends the musical palette even further by giving each string player an integral part, creating a variety of emotional moods throughout each movement.
Since Mozart wrote three of the four pieces on this new recording for virtuoso performers, it seems appropriate that the creme de la creme of the Boston Symphony Orchestra would perform them. The expertise of the nine-member Boston Symphony Chamber Players is perfectly matched to Mozart's chamber music for winds. While these works are structured with intricate detail, they're also filled with beautiful, memorable melodies that you'll want to enjoy over and over again.