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Thalia Ensemble - Reicha: Wind Quintets - Limelight Magazine


19 May 2016
Limelight Magazine
Phillip Scott
4 Stars

HIP wind quintets defy certain antiseptic expectations

If the prospect of a whole disc of wind quintets by Antoine Reicha - whose biggest claim to fame was his friendship with Beethoven - hardly sets pulses racing then the actuality proves more enchanting. The Thalia Ensemble performs on period instruments - no valves on Hylke Rozema's gamey natural horn - which lifts the soundworld of Reicha's music out from that rather antiseptic sheen I associate (unfairly perhaps) with modern instrument wind quintets.

Each of Reicha's 24 wind quintets conforms to the standard four-movement mould as handed down from Haydn and Mozart, and revolutionised by his friend Ludvig van B. Of the two quintets on offer here, the earlier G Major Quintet, Op. 88 embeds the sound of surprise into its form most effectively. Harmonic tricks of the light and rarefied timbres are deployed to spice up the formula. Reicha's Lento prologue stumbles into existence: a questioning opening chord catches the clarinettist mid-phrase before the music slithers chromatically towards the Allegro main event. Reicha was a flautist and his flute writing is correspondingly athletic, defined by "here's me". But my ear was as captivated by his bassoon parts, which dramatically break free from the ensemble, gurgling and turning like water rotating down a plughole.

The Thalia Ensemble eschews affectations of rubato or vibrato. Their performances, positively Baroque in their rhythmic bounce, have the beauty and intricacy of a music box - no gesture wasted, utterly charming to a fault.


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