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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDH55189
Recording details: July 1991
St Michael's Church, Highgate, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: March 1992
Total duration: 15 minutes 50 seconds

'I'm delighted to be able to hail this … as first rate on all counts. The recording itself cannot be over-praised for its vivid clarity and truth' (Gramophone)

'Beethoven offers players the chance to sparkle in his Septet and in the delightful Sextet (new to me, and not to be missed), a chance that The Gaudier Ensemble seize with all arms, hands and lips. A ravishing disc' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Gorgeous performances' (Fanfare, USA)

Sextet in E flat major, Op 81b
for two horns, two violins, viola and cello, c1795, published 1810

Allegro con brio  [7'17]
Adagio  [3'31]
Rondo: Allegro  [5'02]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Beethoven wrote a good deal for wind instruments in his youth. Examples are an early trio for flute, bassoon and piano, a trio for clarinet, cello and piano, a sonata for horn and piano, a quintet for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon (modelled on Mozart’s quintet for the same instruments, K452), and a number of pieces of Harmoniemusik. Beethoven’s sole essay in the serenade/divertimento idiom is his early Sextet in E flat major, Op 81b. The work has a deceptively late opus number because it was not published until 1810, but it seems to have been written around 1795, in the period when Beethoven was beginning to make his way in Viennese society as a composer and keyboard virtuoso after a period of study with Haydn – who left for his second trip to England in January 1794. It is not known whether the work was written for a particular occasion, but it was issued by the Bonn publisher Nicolaus Simrock, who played second horn in the electoral orchestra at Bonn, and had been a friend of Beethoven’s since 1789 when the composer joined the orchestra as a viola player. Simrock published a number of Beethoven’s works, including the ‘Kreutzer’ sonata, Op 47, and the variations for flute and piano, Op 107, and it may be that the sextet was written for performance by the Bonn horn player and some of his colleagues. The work has the light-hearted, easy-going tone of the serenade/divertimento tradition, though it is in only three movements – most serenades have at least five – and the horn parts occasionally have the sort of brilliant passage-work we associate with horn concertos or soloistic chamber pieces with horn, such as Haydn’s divertimento in E flat for horn, violin and cello, or Mozart’s quintet in E flat, K407, for horn, violin, two violas and cello. Indeed, K407 is particularly close in style and mood to Op 81b, and was probably the main model.

from notes by Peter Holman © 1992

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