From Vienna With Love


Mozart was an ancient 18 when, on April 1, 1774, he presented "a grand musical concert" in Vienna that included his "entirely new grand quintet" for piano and winds in E-flat, K.452. The composer's happiness, which bubbles over in one mellifluous phrase after another in the final movement, abounds in the grand rendition from pianist André Previn and the Vienna Wind Soloists. The quintet comes first in the artists' 1985 Telarc recording Mozart & Beethoven: Piano & Wind Quintets.

Mozart's quintet was composed during the time that he was writing one great work after another. The opening movement, anything but a lightweight throwaway, is surprisingly serious, yet never morose. It only goes uphill from there.

Beethoven was not yet 27 when his quintet premiered in Vienna on April 6, 1797. Although the work has a fair amount of lightness, and shares the respect for grace and balance that distinguishes many of Mozart's works, the additional weight of Beethoven's expression speaks to his greater maturity and the transition into a new century.

The opening phrase is almost like a call to attention, announcing a supposedly "grave" movement. Let's face it -- how grave can the combination of piano, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon possibly sound? Not when played with the touch and breath of these fine Viennese artists. Once the piano starts bubbling over (at one of the early performances, Beethoven launched into an improvised cadenza in the midst of the finale), there's no stopping.