Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Clarinet Quintet in A major, KV 581 [31:03]
String Quartet No.15 in D minor, KV 421 [30:40]
Nicola Boud (basset clarinet); EDDING Quartet (Baptiste Lopez; Caroline Bayet (violins); Paul De Clerck (alto); Ageet Zweistra (cello))
rec. June 2009, Sint Pieterskerk, Leut, Belgium
ET'CETERA KTC 1401 [61:47]

There is no other piece of music like Mozart's Clarinet Quintet. Still, you need a consummate performance to make it really shine. The new recording by Nicola Boud and the EDDING Quartet has it all. They play on period instruments; the clarinet was reconstructed from a picture on a poster for a concert by Anton Stadler - the friend of Mozart and the dedicatee of the quintet. The first movement is captivating. The great main theme has real flight. The blend of instruments is perfect, and the clarinet sound is beautiful, soft and smooth. The slow movement is a river of honey, deep and mellow. But it is not too slow. The minuet is not hurried, and has a certain "Schubertian" swing. The clarinet-less trio in the minor key is very poignant. The finale provides a stylish ending and leaves you wishing for more. All parts have excellent momentum, but are never excessively fast.

Do not listen to this performance of the D minor String Quartet if you want to stay in a jolly mood. It will throw you into the sea of sadness. But if you are already there - it will show you empathy and comfort. The performance is emotional: it has all the nerve and verve one could wish for. At the same time, there is no excess pressure, and much is said in a hushed voice. The sound of period strings gives the music a darker hue. Mozart's genius is well served here. There is attention to the smallest detail yet the overall structure is easily seen. These musicians held me on the edge of my seat throughout - from the Romantic waves of the first movement, through the bleak landscape of the Andante and the harsh minuet, to the dancing despair of the finale.

The performers grasp and convey the true spirit of both pieces, balancing the duality of joy and sadness, so important in Mozart. Being played on period instruments, the music loses some gloss and lustre, but it is only for the good. These two intimate masterpieces become really personal, and achieve a vibrant directness. In the quintet I would especially praise the playing of Nicola Boud - her playing so effortless that the virtuosity is almost transparent: that's how real virtuosity shows.

The recording quality is excellent, very sensitive to details. Liner-notes by Lore Maegerman (in English, French and German) tell us about the works and the circumstances of their creation. These recordings keep the music playing in your head for days and days after first hearing. I will not compare it with other recordings, and I haven't heard all the favorites, but this one gives me all the music in the best way I can imagine. 

Oleg Ledeniov