There’s a special body of chamber music, works that were written for uncommon combinations for five to eight instruments, rather than the more common duos and quartets. This music tends to be performed by special arrangement, since there aren’t that many ensembles that routinely feature one or more wind instruments with an assortment of strings, and sometimes a piano.
The Scharoun Ensemble — a German group founded in 1983 by members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra — specializes in this unusual music. The permanent core of the Scharoun Ensemble is a classical octet (clarinet, bassoon, horn, two violins, viola, cello and double bass), made up entirely of members of the Berlin Philharmonic.
The group performs a wide repertoire, ranging from composers of the Baroque period by way of Classical and Romantic chamber music to contemporary works. In addition to innovative programming, a refined tonal culture and spirited interpretations are hallmarks of the ensemble.
For their concert in Jackson Hall at the Mondavi Center at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, the Scharoun Ensemble will feature three works written between 1789 and 1879.
First up will be the Mozart Clarinet Quintet, K. 581, composed in 1789, and regarded, along with the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, as Mozart’s greatest music for the instrument. This performance, feature the ensemble’s clarinetist Alexander Bader, will offer an interesting opportunity for the Mondavi Center’s frequent concertgoers to listen and compare. The Mozart Clarinet Quintet also was performed in Jackson Hall by clarinetist Eric Hoeprich and the London-Haydn String Quartet in January.
Next up will be the Czech Suite in D Major, Op. 39, by Antonín Dvorák, an octet arrangement by a modern arranger of a five-movement orchestral suite (including a polka) that Dvorák composed in 1839.
Lastly, the Scharoun Ensemble will perform the Beethoven Septet, Op. 20, a six-movement work for strings and winds that was composed in 1799-1800, and became one of Beethoven’s most popular works during his lifetime. At roughly 45 minutes in length, the Septet covers almost as much territory as Beethoven’s symphonies, but in a lighter and more diverting manner.
The Scharoun Ensemble’s current American tour includes concerts at the Morgan Library in New York City (tickets are being handled by Carnegie Hall) and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The Scharoun Ensemble has recorded a number of albums, which include the Mozart Clarinet Quintet and Beethoven Septet.
Tickets are $40 general, $20 for students, available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.