This recording forms part of a series of reissues celebrating the glorious Decca recordings from the 1950s-1970s of the Wiener Oktett (Vienna Octet), made up of key principals from the Wiener Philharmoniker and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. Perhaps the ensemble projected a rather cosy, cuddly image on its tours abroad. More often than not, the program would include the works by Mozart, Michael Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Spohr, Conradin Kreutzer and Brahms. Many listeners would therefore be surprised to know how much twentieth-century music the group played, especially at home in Vienna. The conservatism of chamber music societies and impresarios meant that much of this “cutting edge” music was not included in their international touring programs. Fortunately there were exceptions; and the Decca Record Company went out of its way to document some of the ensemble’s more up-to-date offerings.
This anthology brings together all of the Wiener Oktett’s recordings of 20th century chamber music, and all but the Britten make their first appearance on CD. The cheeky Octet by Belgian composer Marcel Poot was commissioned by the Vienna Octet. The Wellesz was a kind of peace offering. Indonesian-born Dutch composer Henk Badings enjoyed healthy representation in the concert hall from key Dutch performers and his Octet is dedicated to the Wiener Oktett. The ensemble performed Hindemith’s 1957-58 Octet regularly and recorded it soon after (1964).
Distinguished commentator Tully Potter’s notes focus not only on the music itself and the performers, but the inter-relationships between the two.
BRITTEN: Sinfonietta, Op. 1
WELLESZ: Octet, Op. 67
Recording Producers: John Culshaw (Poot); Erik Smith (Hindemith, Britten); James Mallinson (Badings, Wellesz)
Balance Engineers: James Brown (Poot); Gordon Parry, Jack Law (Hindemith, Britten); Tryggvi Tryggvason (Badings, Wellesz)
Recording Location: Sofiensaal, Vienna, Austria, October 1956 (Poot), June 1964 (Hindemith), April 1965 (Britten), April 1971 (Badings, Wellesz)
‘immediately pleasurable listening’ (Poot) Gramophone
‘accomplished performances’ (Britten, Hindemith) Gramophone
‘The performances are at once lively and relaxed, in the best Viennese tradition’ (Wellesz, Badings) Gramophone