It’s hard not to drool over the idea of a Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet. Michael Hasel (flute), Andreas Wittmann (oboe), Walter Seyfarth (clarinet), Marion Reinhard (bassoon), and Fergus McWilliam (horn) are members of arguably the world’s best orchestra, one that bears the stamp of Wilhelm Furtwängler, Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado, and now Simon Rattle. Unlike, say, a string quintet, their five instruments offer a world of different textures and colors. It’s too bad that the repertoire doesn’t boast more works by such woodwind masters as Beethoven, Berlioz, Dvorák, Mahler, and Sibelius. But in their second Celebrity Series appearance Friday at Jordan Hall (the first was in 2010), the Berliners did very nicely with Mozart, Haas, Ibert, Milhaud, and Françaix.
The first half of the mostly 20th-century program had a somber cast to it. The three Mozart Fantasies for Mechanical Organ were commissioned by Count Josef von Deym’s Müllersche Kunstgalerie in Vienna to be played during its memorial exhibition for Austrian field marshal Ernst Gideon von Laudon. Mozart can hardly have been enamored of the flute-playing mechanical clock, but what he produced is by no means background music. The K. 594 Fantasy begins in the stealthy manner of his late piano concertos before skittering and growing playful; the K. 608 Fantasy is wreathed in fugues. The arrangements by Hasel for wind quintet were an intriguing combination of complex and contentious.