Tall Poppies


< TP130   TP131   TP132 >
 TP (1-901)


Mozart & Brahms: The Clarinet Quintets

Australia Ensemble

$23   (Australian dollars)


buy at: AMC - Buywell - iTunes

Featuring the delectable clarinet playing of Catherine McCorkill, this CD contains two of the most loved works in the chamber repertoire. McCorkill plays the basset clarinet in the Mozart Quintet - the first time she has brought her acclaimed skills on this instrument to a recording, and the Brahms is just wonderful!

MozartClarinet Quintet in A major, K.581
BrahmsClarinet Quintet, Op. 115


This is another endearing and memorable recording from the Tall Poppies collection. Five well-known members of the Australia Ensemble - Dene Olding (violin), Dimity Hall (violin), Irina Morozova (viola), Julian Smiles (cello) and Catherine McCorkill (basset clarinet and clarinet in A) - come together for performances of the Mozart Clarinet Quintet K58J in A major, and the Brahms Clarinet Quintet Op.1I5 in B minor. To add to the interest McCorkill plays a modern "conjectural reconstruction" of the basset instrument which Mozartís friend and Viennese clarinet virtuoso, Anton Stadler, played in the original version of K581. The basset clarinet is notable because it extends the lowest register of the clarinet downwards by four semitones. The ordinary clarinet in A is used in the Brahms Quintet. These two Quintets are so well-known that the music hardly needs introduction. The Mozart is in general terms a lighter work than the Brahms, but it is a work of simple and straightforward beauty.

Mozart exploits in typically elegant fashion the contrast in tone colour between the clarinet and the strings. Often the clarinet merges with the strings to produce a rich texture of sound, but more frequently the clarinet is distinguished as a solo voice - at times clear and commanding in its upper registers, and at others times soft and warm as it descends into the depths. It is required to perform sweeping arpeggios, illustrating the flexibility of the instrument, and making great technical demands upon the player. The thematic material is always interesting.

The approach by the Ensemble is light-hearted and joyous, with occasional moments of deep sadness. The slow movement (Larghetto), in which the strings are muted, is particularly entrancing in this recording: the clarinet sound weaves in and out of the background provided by the strings in a seemingly effortless and almost sensuous manner.

The Brahms Quintet is different. It is in a minor key, and it has a brooding and sombre quality which contrasts with the generallv joyous narure of the Mozart: the phrasing is more complex, the texture is thicker and the structure is much looser. Written a century after the Mozart work, it is the product of Romanticism and, as one would expect, it shows much greater freedom of expression in its composition. Like Mozart, Brahms makes impressive use of arching arpeggios which exploit the range and agility of the clarinet. Again, the slow movement is eloquent. The strings are muted in this Adagio of elegiac sadness.

Listening to the Mozart Quintet one feels at times that it could be a small concerto for clarinet and strings, whereas one of the most striking features of the Brahms is the manner in which the five parts are integrated: the writing for the clarinet is often brilliant, but never dominant.

Problems of securing a proper balance between differing tone colours confront any composer writing for a wind instrument with strings. They also confront the players head on during live performance, and the exposition of the Australia Ensemble in this regard is excellent for both works. Instrumental ensemble, balance and the blending of timbres are beyond criticism, in fact, inspirational.

Definitely a CD to acquire!

< TP130   TP131   TP132 >
 TP (1-901)



site design by carl vine