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Name of Work

Beethoven, Ludwig van (1770-1827)
Quintet in E-flat Major for piano and wind instruments, Op. 16 (1993)

Movements:
Grava/Allegro ma non troppo
Andante cantabile
Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo

Performances:


May 02, 1993



Deborah Sobol, Piano
Michael Henoch, Oboe
Larry Combs, Clarinet
Bruce Grainger, Bassoon
Gail Williams, Horn


May 03, 1993



Deborah Sobol, Piano
Michael Henoch, Oboe
Larry Combs, Clarinet
Bruce Grainger, Bassoon
Gail Williams, Horn

BEETHOVEN - Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 16, for Piano, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and Horn

Composed in 1797

The Quintet for Piano and Winds was premiered at a private concert, in the home of a Viennese court official, in April of 1797. Many of those present might have remembered a similar piece written in the 1780s by Mozart: in the same key of E-Flat, and with the same instrumental forces of piano, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and horn. Friedrich Ramm, the oboist at the Beethoven premiere, had been a Mozart colleague; Beethoven, at the piano for the occasion, had consciously modeled his Quintet on Mozart's piece, and like him, gave the piano a leading role in introducing the work's main themes. Both Mozart and Beethoven, outstanding keyboard players, probably had to resist the temptation of exploiting their quintets as mini-concertos; what they each achieved was music that ultimately strikes a balance between piano and wind sonorities, emphasizing the piano, but giving opportunities for prominence to each wind player in turn.

An anecdote about the Quintet's premiere reveals that the composer, in the end, could not resist showing off in a solo role. He is alleged to have disrupted the finale by engaging in a series of improvisations, to the total (and highly understandable) disgust of the wind players, but also to the delight of the audience, which thoroughly enjoyed Beethoven's keyboard pyrotechnics.

The Quintet opens with a slow, quasi-improvisatory introduction, "Grave," a passage that establishes right away the fact that the "first among equals" in the work will be the piano and the clarinet; each instrument, however, is presented on its own, making individual contributions to the whole. The "Allegro ma non troppo," the first movement proper, begins with a piano theme, and the keyboard remains in the lead throughout. Both piano and clarinet have solos at the start of the "Andante cantabile" movement; later, the other instruments receive solo opportunities in a sequence of free variations. The rondo-finale is lively and humorous; the piano is set up against the wind choir as the players reiterate and break up the main theme, carrying on an exuberant five-way conversation.

Program Notes by Andrea Lamoreaux

Performance date: May 2 & 3, 1993



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