- Piano Quartet in E flat major (arr. from Quintet Op. 16), Op. 16
- Quintet for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn & bassoon in E flat major, K. 452
Cambini Winds oboist Geoffrey Burgess expends a good deal of ink in the booklet to this little Musica Omnia release in arguing that the early quintet for piano and winds, a genre Mozart invented, benefits especially from period-instrument performance. It's true enough in these readings of Mozart's "Quintet for piano and winds in E flat major, K. 452," and Beethoven's "Quintet for piano and winds in E flat major, Op. 16," a piece influenced by Mozart right down to the choice of key. The balance achieved by a modern grand piano and a dulcet set of modern winds may succeed in making all the instruments audible if the piano is closed far enough, but the textures do not resemble what Mozart and Beethoven would have understood. Here, the balance among the four winds and the fortepiano of Penelope Crawford takes place at the levels the composer intended; the keyboard is not a suppressed giant but a graceful dance partner in the proceedings. Even better is a certain X factor in the performance of the Mozart especially. Mozart, when this work had its premiere in 1784 with the composer himself at the keyboard, called it the best thing he had written, and he should be taken seriously in this regard. There is something in the constantly shifting wind textures of the Cambini Winds, an American group of internationally diverse background, that gets at Mozart's ambitions in this work; it seems far removed from the world of Mozart's earlier occasional music for winds, and turns into something spacious and shimmering. The only real complaint here is with the sound: a Presbyterian church in small-town Michigan lends the winds a harsh edge and disturbs the delicate equilibrium that is the hallmark of this fine recording.