- Septet for piano, flute, oboe, horn, viola, cello & double bass (or for piano quintet) in D minor, Op. 74
- Symphony No. 39 in E flat major, K. 543
These performances affirm anew that the historical performance movement has much to offer music of the nineteenth century after Beethoven; the musicians of Belgium's Solstice Ensemble play a variety of instruments roughly from the period of Johann Nepomuk Hummel's life, or copies thereof (the strings are older). The one you notice the most is the 1850 horn (which is really French) in the Hummel "Septet in D minor, Op. 74" -- the silken horn capable of whispering was a creation from later in the century, and this one still makes you aware that you're listening to an instrument originally meant for the hunt or the military field of action. That horn has a way of bringing to life the dense, expansive movements of Hummel's "Septet," a work with the large-scale harmonic architecture of Schubert but without the Romantic inwardness to match. The horn propels the listener from section to section in the outer movements and adds punch to the ambivalently titled Menuetto o scherzo second movement; the Andante variation set remains the piece's weakest part. The cover doesn't make clear that the concluding arrangement of Mozart's "Symphony No. 39 in E flat major, K. 543," is also by Hummel, who was present (at age nine, as a boarder in Mozart's household) at the work's creation. It's a splendid example of its type; Hummel chooses the four instruments, piano, flute, violin, and cello, that arguably enable him to extract the most possible music from Mozart's original score. He also marks it up with tempo indications that have been responsible for some of the blazing speeds heard in historically oriented performances of the original symphony; director Isabelle Lamfalussy doesn't push things quite as far as some other conductors have, but she divests the minuet completely of its latterly acquired tippy-toeing Viennese waltz overtones and produces a brisk interpretation ideally suited to the chamber group. Highly enjoyable from start to finish, and possibly a definitive performance of the Hummel "Septet."