The Whitehall Road Sessions

Thursday 20 May 2021 | Quintets for Piano and Winds: Mozart and von Herzogenberg

In this instalment of Opera North's weekly livestreamed Whitehall Road sessions, instrumentalists from the Orchestra of Opera North perform two Quintets in E♭ major for Piano and Winds by Mozart and Herzogenberg.

Mozart completed the Quintet in E♭ major for Piano and Winds in March 1784, in the midst of a purple patch for his writing for piano (see our Kirklees Season Launch Concert of his Piano Concerto No. 14, written a month before the Quintet). Following its premiere, the 28-year-old composer declared it “the best thing I have written in my life."

The combination of piano with oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon was unusual for the time, and is thought to have inspired Beethoven’s Quintet for the same ensemble, written in 1796. After introducing each instrument in the opening section, energetic exchanges between ever-changing combinations of instruments and some unexpected key changes show Mozart’s mastery of chamber arrangement, even for such an unfamiliar grouping.

Skipping over Beethoven’s tribute to the Mozart prototype, we’ve settled on something a little more unusual: the Austrian composer Heinrich von Herzogenberg’s 1888 response for the same ensemble, also in the key of E♭ major. A versatile and highly productive composer, von Herzogenberg spent his career in the shadow of his friend Johannes Brahms. The German composer’s influence can be heard here, but Herzogenberg’s skilled, lively approach shines through in this good-natured and incredibly varied work.

From the Orchestra of Opera North

Oboe: Richard Hewitt

Clarinet: Andrew Mason

Bassoon: David Baker

Horn: Robert Ashworth

Piano: David Cowan (Mozart)

Martin Pickard (von Herzogenberg)

Presenter: Kate Simms

Director: Richard Critchlow

Produced by Opera North and Dependable Productions

Programme:

Mozart - Quintet in E♭ major for Piano and Winds

Von Herzogenberg - Quintet in E♭ major for Piano and Winds