CPO bills this as part of its "Dieter Klöcker Edition"; is
Klöcker, the Consortium Classicum's guiding light and principal
clarinetist, really so prominent an artist as to merit a Recorded
Edition? The present recording, an analogue reissue from 1974,
is an EMI Electrola production - the disc neatly incorporates
the EMI Classics logo into the standard CPO label design - but
I don't recall any LP appearance Stateside, either on Angel
or on any of its licensees.
In this Sextet performance, dark hues dominate the overall sound more
than usual - I became very aware that the piece calls for an
ensemble of low instruments. Beethoven exploits the clarinet's
long range and concomitant registral changes to inject some
brightness into the dark-hued ensemble, especially in the first
movement, where that instrument carries most of the melodic
material. Paradoxically, the sonority here is also unusually
transparent: once past the close-positioned opening chords,
which suffer the sort of buzzy congestion that suggests pre-digital
overload, the textures are consistently easy to "hear through."
The inner movements, in which the bassoon and horn assume more
prominent roles, remain dark. Only in the Rondo finale
does the music climb into a higher tessitura; in this bubbling,
high-spirited rendition, the players tackle the technical challenges
and brief display opportunities with obvious relish.
After the Septet's brief slow introduction, timbral warmth tempers
the first movement's basically energetic, propulsive manner,
with the clarinet and horn full and resonant in their solo spots.
The Adagio cantabile is grave and dignified; there's
a hint of a rustic edge in both the tone and the phrasing of
the Tempo di menuetto. In the fourth movement, the players
underline the ominous undertones of the minor-key variation,
the better to set off the genial surrounding material. I have
heard more athletic, infectious performances of the Scherzo,
but the Consortium find a nice lilt in it, shifting into a more
easygoing, gemütlich gear for the Trio section. There's
enough of a suggestion of hurtling forward to keep the finale
going, even in the brief, more formal episode at 3:38 with its
overlapping parts; earlier on, the string playing has sounded
a bit bashful and restrained, but the violin suddenly and correctly
turns brilliant in the rising repeated notes at the finish.
Good work, then, and good music-making all around; fans of Klöcker
or the Consortium will be pleased. But there are preferable
individual versions around, including the Gaudier Ensemble's
take on the Sextet (Helios) and the St. Martin's Academy Chamber
Ensemble in the Septet (Chandos).
Stephen Francis Vasta