The clarinet quintets of Mozart
and Brahms, two of the absolute masterworks in the chamber
music literature have a great deal in common. By circumstance
in the case of Mozart both came late in their composers’ careers,
both were composed with famous virtuoso clarinetists in mind,
both are cast in four movements ending in a theme and variations,
and both are works of profoundly understated beauty and richness.
Mozart was going strong when
he composed this piece, and although it is mature and contemplative
in nature, it shows none of the signs of finality and valediction
that are present in the Brahms. Rich in melodic content, Mozart
seems to go further afield from classical formality to create
a piece that is as fresh and original today as it was when
it was first heard in 1789.
Brahms, on the other hand,
came out of retirement to write four more works - two sonatas,
a quartet and the present quintet - for the brilliant principal
clarinetist of the Hamburg orchestra. And what a gift these
works were. Reflective, autumnal and possessing an ease and
serenity seldom found in Brahms’ earlier efforts, this is
music that simply flows from the composer’s mind like water.
Every structure is perfect in its symmetry, every phrase a
flawlessly turned essay in elegance and grace.
After about a dozen hearings,
I can say with confidence that these performances are amongst
the most flawless that I have ever heard. Everything about
them fits the music like a glove. Perfect balance, excellent
pacing, seamless ensemble and impeccable intonation cause
this music to seem to play itself. Of particular merit is
this ensemble’s choice of tempi, and the ease with which the
music ebbs and flows. There is never a static moment, nor
do we ever feel that the music will become breathless. The
effortlessness with which the sounds are produced is at once
engaging and unbelievably soothing.
This is my first encounter
with the Tudor label, but if this is any indication of the
company’s standard for quality, I cannot wait to hear more.
The sound is beautifully balanced, silken in tone; warm and
rich from the softest to the loudest passages. Attractive
packaging and concise and informative notes make the total
package a winner. Order this one right away. You won’t be