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Heinrich Hofmann
Octet, Serenade for Flute and String Quintet & String Sextet

Berolina Ensemble

MDG 9481808-6

Heinrich Hofmann (1842-1902) was a productive composer, hugely famous in Germany and England for his symphony and Melusine cantata - the latter performed more than 1,500 times in Germany, England & USA.

The notes writer counts him fortunate to have died young, saving him from seeing his works rapidly disappear from the repertoire "an experience which darkened the latter years of, say, Max Bruch (1838-1920)" !

Hofmann's chamber music catalogue lacks any string quartet and this disc is for unusual combinations, with instrumentation often original. The Octet for Flute, Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon, Two Violins, Viola, and Violoncello and Serenade for Flute and String Quintet are interesting, the latter with marked a fascinating contrast between virtuoso flute parts and intimate string parts. The string sextet less successful, its textures too "bottom heavy" to my taste.

Of special interest is the Berolina Ensemble, a mixed ensemble inspired by our English Melos Ensemble, which from 1950 led me to become interested in exploring unknown chamber music. Their successors have included the London Sinfonietta and Nash Ensemble.

Peter Grahame Woolf