THREE recent releases from Philips make special claims on our attention by virture of imaginative repertory and exceptional performances. None offers music anyone would think of putting in the "most important" or "most significant" categories, perhaps, but all are the sort of thing most likely to be remembered and enjoyed when a jaded listener looks for something fresh.
The first two are in fact reissues from Phillip's Festivo series. The recordings originally were released about a dozen years ago when Philips was just converting from domestic to imported pressings for the American market. At that time the Grumiaux Trio's survey of all the Beethoven string trios was out one disc at a time; now it is conveniently packaged in a three-disc set (6770.159; also on cassettes, 7699.159).
All six of these trios are early works. The big six-movement Trio in E Flat is clearly patterned after Mozart's Divertimento in the same key (K. 563), the greatest of all string trios. In the three more concise trios of Op. 9 Beethoven showed more of his own character, and in the two serenades -- Op. 8 for string trio and Op. 25 for flute, violin and viola -- he achieved a frothy charm he seldom tried to recapture in any of his later works. a
Violist Georges Janzer and his wife, cellist Eva Czako, are Arthur Grumiaux's splendid associates in the string trios; Maxence Larrieu is the similarly splendid flutist in Op. 25. None of these works has known more eloquent interpreters. The sound is first-rate, the pressings superb.
The other Festivo reissue is a disc made downright irresistible by the Netherlands Wind Ensembele's incredibly winning performance of Gounod's "Petite Sumphonie" B flat. The nine young Dutchmen conducted by Edo de Waart Sound as if the piece had been written especially from the, and/or they had all been born just to show us what a delicious thing this work can be. Neither the Marlboro performance nor the French one issued more recently on Nonesuch makes half as strong a case for Gounod as the Dutchmen do.
Since the Gounod work takes only about 17 minutes, the side is filled out with a Schubert rarity, a Minuet and Finale in F major for wind octet (D. 72) that makes quite a nice little bonus. The other side of this indispensable disc (6570.205; cassette 7310.205) is devoted to an out-and-out masterwork, Dvorak's Serenade in D minor for 10 winds, cello and double bass, Op. 44. This too is hardly an overexposed piece, and the performance is a fine one, if not quite in the special class of the Gounod presentation.