> Mozart - Brahms [GPJ]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Quintet for clarinet and string quartet in A major, KV581
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Quintet for clarinet and string quartet in b minor, op.115
Berlin Soloists: Karl Leister, clarinet, Bernd Gellerman, Berhard Hartog, violins, Wolfram Christ, viola, Jörg Baumann, ’cello
Recorded in the Max-Joseph-Saal der Münchener Residenz, August 1988
APEX 0927 44350 [70:59]


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The coupling of these two works, the greatest of their kind, is an obvious one, though the catalogue is not exactly packed. The finest currently available is probably David Shifrin’s with the Emerson Quartet on DG, though the direct competition for the current issue is provided rather by Alessandro Carbonare and a talented young string group on Harmonia Mundi’s bargain label ‘Les nouveaux interprètes’. However, the present disc is not to be dismissed lightly, for Leister is an exceptional instrumentalist who has more recently recorded what is probably the outstanding Brahms Quintet in the catalogue, with the Leipzig Quartet on EMI. That, however, is coupled with the composer’s String Quartet no.2 in a minor, so this bargain Apex CD will make a very attractive prospect for anyone wanting the two quintets together.

Leister is a cool player, with a creamy, super-smooth tone, who treats technical hazards with contemptuous ease. This means that his interpretations have an almost detached quality about them, without the emotional involvement or drama you would expect from a top British player such as de Peyer or Janet Hilton. It does make a ravishing experience in terms of the sheer sound produced. Taking but one example what a stunningly beautiful outpouring is the slow movement of the Brahms. On the other hand, I could definitely do with more sensitivity to the ebb and flow of the music in the powerful first movement. The finale, too, suffers from a lack of real tonal variety, for which the very close-up recording may be partially to blame. The calmly relaxed third movement is given an ideal performance, with a touch of gentle humour where necessary.

The Mozart fares better on the whole, though Gellerman’s violin playing is a little heavy-handed here and there (e.g. his rather lumpy phrasing of the minuet’s first trio, track 3, 1:24). The variations that constitute the finale, are well contrasted, though, and the piece as a whole succeeds well.

Despite my slight reservations, this is a very worthwhile issue, coupling two major masterpieces of the chamber music repertoire in intelligent and immaculately prepared readings.

Gwyn Parry-Jones


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