88. Five’s A Crowd
- Nielsen: Wind Quintet in A Major, Op. 43
- Beethoven: Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 16
Where the string quartet provides a sort of infinite palate with minimal resources—just three instruments, differing chiefly in register—the woodwind quintet offers a much more varied cast of characters: the chipper flute, the dour bassoon, the plaintive oboe, the regal horn, and the smooth clarinet. Carl Nielsen was very familiar with the personalities of not just the instruments in his woodwind quintet, but also the players behind them; the group he originally wrote the piece for was made up of friends. Written in 1922, Nielsen’s work strikes a conversational tone, balancing duets and solos from each of the instruments with more cohesive ensemble sections. Beethoven gained inspiration from a quintet, too—in his case, not an ensemble but a composition by Mozart. Mozart’s 1784 Quintet for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn & bassoon in E flat major came some13 years before Beethoven’s, but the young Beethoven’s work is a clear tribute; his piece shares with the Mozart its instrumentation, structure, and even key.