Brahms: Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115; Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34

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LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115; Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34
PERFORMER: Ralph Manno (clarinet), Alfredo Perl (piano), Michaela Paetsch Neftel, Rahel Cunz (violin), Hartmut Rohde (viola), Guido Schiefen (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 30493 2 Reissue (1995)
Arte Nova’s box inlay terms this assemblage of young international prizewinners ‘Ein absolutes Top-Ensemble’, but they don’t seem to have adopted any collective name and came together principally to make this disc. Richly talented though these individuals are, it’s not immediately apparent why the world required them to provide yet another version of these two much-recorded masterpieces. Still, their glowingly autumnal reading of the Clarinet Quintet is projected with complete sympathy – a highly competitive alternative to the excellent Thea King/Gabrieli benchmark. Autumn also seems curiously to colour the Piano Quintet: one of the most inwardly musing, presumably ‘Schubertian’, accounts I’ve ever heard. The slow movement’s lyric intensity is remarkable, but the angry dynamism of the scherzo and the outer movements is curiously muted. In this work, an ideal fusion of Schubertian melody and Beethovenian energy, neither aspect can be overstressed at the expense of the other. At least this approach has novelty – second-best performances are usually weighted to the teeth-gritting Beethovenian side – but it doesn’t displace the Borodin Quartet with Eliso Virsaladze, or the recent fine account from La Gaia Scienza, in my estimation. Calum MacDonald