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Mozart Clarinet Concerto and Quintet

This exquisitely played disc features a recording compiled in 1994. There are two works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on it: his Clarinet Concerto in A K.622, written a few weeks before his death, and the Clarinet Quintet in A, K581. The Concerto is performed by the clarinettist Jack Brymer with Sir Colin Davis conducting the London Symphony Orchestra (this recording was made in 1964); the Quintet is performed also by Jack Brymer with the Allegri String Quartet, which at the time it was recorded in 1970 was led by Hugh Maguire.

Both the Clarinet Concerto and the Clarinet Quintet were written for Mozart's friend Anton Stadler, a fine clarinettist of the time. The Quintet was first performed in December 1789.

The music of both pieces is exquisitely tranquil and lovely. Brymer's phrasing in the Concerto is particularly beautifully expressed and Sir Colin Davis does not rush the pace too much. I particularly loved the dreamy peace of the Adagio, and Mozart's use of the clarinet's deeper Chalumaux register brings out the instrument's voice in a way that few other works do.

I also loved the Clarinet Quintet. The Allegri quartet was at this time one of the finest string quartets around and the silvery tones of the leader's playing contrast most beautifully with the liquid tones of the clarinet. The voices of the instruments interchange with one another singing the music in a way that few ensembles could imitate.

The Clarinet Concerto has three movements: No. 1, an Allegro, is written in the sonata form so often used for first movements in classical works. No. 2 is the Adagio and No. 3 a bouncy rondo which finishes the work. There are no cadenzas in this concerto; Mozart probably felt they weren't necessary as the absolute lyricism of the piece precludes the need for musical fireworks.

The Clarinet Quintet completes the disc with four movements. No. 1 is another Allegro again in sonata form, with its introduction, exposition and recapitulation. No. 2 is the slow movement, this time a larghetto rather than the slower adagio of the Clarinet Concerto. Movement No. 3 is a traditional Menuetto da capo with its accompanying Trio (in which the Minuet is played with both parts repeated, then the trio the same way, then the Minuet is repeated but this time without playing the repeats), and Movement No. 4 is a set of variations which bring out the voices of each instrument in turn.

I can't recommend this recording of these works too highly. If you would like to buy the disk for your collection it is available here at www.amazon.com. If you are not in the US it is also available from www.amazon.co.uk here.

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