"...This addition to the catalogue cannot be too highly recommended. Not to be missed."
MusicOMH.com - 2 October 2006
"... a highly accomplished performance, with the music’s grandeur evident from the very opening bars of the slow introduction. The C Minor Serenade for Wind Octet K388 [is] a superb performance, by turns austere and warm, that is surely the equal of any recording of this dark work."
**** K361 *****K388 (performance)
BBC Music Magazine - December 2006
"London Winds’ divine recording of the "Gran Partita" and "Nacht Musique" Serenades should disarm any listener who is normally suspicious of musical balm. So sweet and direct is their tone, so wittily detailed their dialogue, so neat their tempi, so rich the sonority that results from exchanging the normal double-bass for a contrabassoon, that resistance is futile. Though the first Adagio of the "Gran Partita" is the jewel in this disc -as remarkable for the soft rosy mattress of basset horns as it is for the aching legato lines of clarinet and oboe - the piquancy of the C Minor Serenade is equally seductive. A superlative performance, beautifully recorded." ****
Independent On Sunday - November 2006
"This is a desirable pairing of Mozart’s greatest works for wind ensemble, balancing refinement and earthy enjoyment in the so-called "Gran Partita" and catching all the sombre passion and pathos of that most troubled of serenades, K388.
Textures are unusually transparent, revealing felicities of scoring that often go for little. In the "Gran Partita", the allegros are spruce and vital, full of witty instrumental interplay, while the two minuets are sharply contrasted, the first done as a stately menuetto galante, the second as a brisk, breezy Ländler.
In the sublime adagio, the syncopated accompaniment is slightly too palpable where it should float weightlessly. But these beautifully played, thoughtfully characterised performances can be recommended to anyone who fancies this particular coupling."
Daily Telegraph - 11 November 2006
***** EDITOR’S CHOICE *****
"Michael Collins further entrenches his place among the first rank of clarinettists with this rather heavenly recording of Mozart Serenades. He leads the London Winds with great sensitivity and, when called for, virtuosic flair. A class act. A classy disc.
The Gran Partita is indeed " a grand piece of a very special kind", as a Viennese newspaper of 1784 reported. And it almost always seems to bring out the best in wind ensembles. Led with flair and imagination by Michael Collins, London Winds gives a vital, refined perforamnce, exceptionally transparent in texture and full of felicitious detail: the wonderfully veiled pianissimo coda of the Romanze fifth movement, for instance; or the eloquently phrased oboe cantilena against the dulcet murmurings of clarinets and basset horns in the adagio variation.
Outer movements are crisp and athletic, with an easy, quick-witted sense of instrumental interplay; and the two minuets are sharply contrasted, the first done as a stately menuetto galante, its G minor Trio more elegiac than agitated, the second as a perky Laendler. Some may raise an eyebrow at the use of contrabassoon instead of Mozart’s prescribed double-bass (contrabassoons had notoriously unreliable plumbing in the 1780s). But there are gains in overall blend, even if I missed the double bass’s pizzicato twangs in the second minuet’s beery Trio. My only reservation comes with the Adagio third movement , the work’s emotional core, where the pulsing accompaniment impinges too prominently on the soaring exchanges of oboe, clarinet and basset horn.
As a fill-up London Winds offer that most undiverting of Serenades, K388, in a fine performance, amply powerful and urgent but notable for its poetry and inwardness, whether in the sorrowful, syncopated variant of the "second subject" in the opening Allegro’s recapitulation (7’02"), or the Trio’s exquisite "mirror canon", celestially floated here by oboes and bassoons."
Gramophone - January 2007
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