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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
CD 1
Flute Quartets
: Flute Quartet in D major KV 285 [13:20]; Flute Quartet in A major KV 298 [10:50]; Flute Quartet in C KV Suppl. 171 (KV 285b) [15:22]; Flute Quartet in G major KV 285a [9:35]; Oboe Quartet in F major KV 370 [13:58]
CD 2
Clarinet Quintet in A major KV 581 [30:44];
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
String Quintet in C major D.956 [46:45]

William Bennett (flute) (CD 1; 1-10); Pierre Perlot (CD 1; 11-13) George Pieterson (clarinet) (CD 2; 1-4); Grumiaux Trio: Arthur Grumiaux (violin); Georges Janzer (viola); Eva Czako (cello) (CD 1; 1-10) Max Lesueur (viola); (CD 1; 11-13 CD 2) János Scholz (cello); (CD 1 ; 11-13; CD 2 ; 1-4) Koji Toyoda (violin) (CD 2; 1-4); Arpad Gérecz (violin) (CD 2; 5-8); Paul Szabo (cello) (CD 2; 5-8); Philippe Mermoud (cello) (CD 2; 5-8)
rec.; Musica Théâtre, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, December 1969 (flute quartets);
October 1979 (Schubert); Grote Zaal, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, October 1974 (oboe quartet; clarinet quintet)
PHILIPS ELOQUENCE 4428289 [63:41 + 77:39]

This CD begins with Mozart’s most famous flute quartet, the D major. Played with ease, clarity and poise, it is clear from the outset that this is an exceptional group of musicians. Following a perfectly played opening movement, Bennett’s interpretation of the beautiful Adagio is exquisite; he finds the simplicity within the line while expressing profound musicality. His tone quality is rich and sonorous and his sense of phrasing is truly beautiful. The quartet ends with an exciting finale, demonstrating some fine playing from the Grumiaux Trio and a wonderful sense of joy. This is fast paced and full of lightness, technical display and musicianship. I cannot fault it. This performance, alone, makes this CD a must-have.

The performances of the remaining flute quartets live up to the standards set by the D major. The Flute Quartet in A major includes a viola solo, impressively played by Georges Janzer, to the sensitive accompaniment of the rest of the ensemble. Bennett has astonishing pianissimo control and from hearing this CD, it is completely understandable that he has gained a reputation as one of the finest living flute players. The Andantino con variazioni of the C major quartet is particularly well played, with lightness and delicacy from all the players, and the balance adapting to suit the various solo lines.

I had not previously heard the G major quartet, and it is sometimes not included in recordings of Mozart’s complete flute quartets. It is shorter than the others, with only two movements and a total duration of just over nine and half minutes. Another charming work, this was the only one of the set thought not to have been written as part of the celebrated commission for amateur flute player Ferdinand de Jean. That commission included the two flute concertos and gave rise to the famous legend that Mozart disliked the flute. He was asked to compose six quartets and completed only three; it possible that this fourth quartet was written at the same time, though the earliest surviving manuscript is not in Mozart’s hand writing, raising questions about its authenticity. 

The first CD of this two disc set is completed with the Oboe Quartet in F major, performed here by Pierre Pierlot. This is the first international CD release of this recording, although it was presumably previously available on vinyl. Bennett’s fine flute playing is a hard act to follow, but Pierlot and his colleagues give a high quality performance. The Allegro sparkles, and Pierlot displays a wonderful musical elegance in the Adagio. The final Rondeau is faultless, with excellent technical control and a lightness of touch. 

The second disc of the set comprises Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet K581 and the C major String Quintet D956 by Schubert, both of which are premiere international CD releases of these particular recordings. 

 George Pieterson performs on the clarinet with a silky tone which is both beguiling and expressive. The string playing is consistently high quality, although the sound perhaps betrays the age of the recording. There is an excellent sense of balance and homogeneity between the string parts and I particularly enjoyed the clarity of the bass line, with some beautifully expressive pizzicato playing in the first movement [3:47]. The minor key interludes are phrased with a wonderful change of tone colour, and the technical moments are always performed neatly, with the ensemble always secure. Each of the players are evenly matched, creating a fine performance. The famous Larghetto sounds effortless and exquisitely beautiful, full of charm and character. There are some lovely moments of dialogue between the violin and clarinet, and the change of dynamic at the recapitulation is breathtaking. The Menuetto is played with some weightiness and seriousness, a welcome contrast to the other movements. The final Allegretto con variazioni also has a sense of gravitas in the opening theme, with each variation taking on its own character as the movement progresses.

The Schubert is played with elegance, with the opening of the Adagio demonstrating particular sensitivity. The first movement has drama and simplicity in equal measure, with the lyrical phrases demonstrating a poignant romanticism, alongside captivating directional movement in the driving crescendos. This is a substantial work, almost orchestral in its proportions, which contains a whole gamut of emotions, all of which are performed here with strength, passion and commitment. The Adagio, with its well-known rhythmic motif, is performed with true grace. This is a wonderful rendition. The military-like opening of the Scherzo is instantly commanding with some dazzling violin playing from Grumiaux and Gérecz balanced well by the bass end of the ensemble. The final Allegretto is well controlled and stylishly played. 

This is an excellent recording and I am particularly glad that it is now widely available on CD. This is an essential part of any CD collection.

Carla Rees



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