Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Clarinet Quintet in B minor (1891) [36:34]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Clarinet Quintet in A (1789) [33:11]
David Campbell (clarinet)
Bingham Quartet (Stephen Bingham (violin); Sally-Ann Weeks (violin); Brenda Stewart (viola); James Halsey (cello))
rec. St Barnabas Church, Dulwich, 1997
ALTO ALC 1161 [69:45]
These two works are natural bedfellows and are frequently found together on disc. This modern recording is licensed from Olympia (OCD637). Its warm, digital sound and lovely playing will be found welcome on most shelves, depending on your attitude to the Brahms Quintet. The Binghams give it a rather troubled reading, emphasising the edginess and tension of the music, particularly in the outer movements. Even the lovely Adagio seems unstable. Its major key outer sections are almost a distraction from the tense drama of the central section. The ending, too, is equivocal and rather unsettling. It’s not an invalid reading of the music, though it sidelines much of the beauty of Brahms’ writing and it won’t be to everyone’s taste. The Mozart is much more instantly appealing, in touch with the Autumnal warmth of the piece. It is played as from the inside, with beautiful awareness of the interplay of all five lines. The clarinet in particular comes across as fluid and flexible, with only an occasional touch of shrillness in the quicker passages. The slow movement is particularly beautiful and the variations of the finale are perky and substantial with some lovely moments of reflection. There are many good couplings of these two works and this one can take its place among the best of them, especially at this budget price.
This coupling can take its place among the best, especially at this budget price.