Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A, K622; Clarinet Quintet in A, K581

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COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: United
WORKS: Clarinet Concerto in A, K622; Clarinet Quintet in A, K581
PERFORMER: Joan Enric Lluna (basset-clarinet), Brodsky Quartet; ECO/Antony Pay
CATALOGUE NO: 88010 DDD (distr. Complete Record Co)
There’s been much musicological cap-doffing toward the valedictory pronouncements of the A major Clarinet Concerto, K622, Mozart’s last orchestral work, and his final Piano Concerto, K595 in B flat, also of 1791. Historical fact suggests that these works pursue a strand of resignation eloquently debated two years previously, in the Clarinet Quintet, K581. Of these four new versions, that from Wolfgang Meyer and the Quatuor Mosaïques offers the richest insight into the pathos of the work. Meyer’s tonal opulence, notably in the oft-exploited ‘chalumeau’ register perfected by Anton Stadler, for whom Mozart wrote the Quintet and the Concerto K622, is only occasionally marred by the rattling key-work of his reproduction basset-clarinet. Charles Neidich has fewer mechanical problems to contend with in his Sony performance with L’Archibudelli. The playing is cultured, if occasionally clinical, and although lacking the spiritual rapprochement of the Auvidis account, the disc offers marginally better value for money, with the inclusion of the Clarinet Quartet, K317d, a reworking of the K378 violin sonata. Neidich is joined by Robert Levin and Jürgen Kussmaul in the so-called Kegelstatt (literally ‘Skittles’) Trio, K498; fine as they are, their rivals enkindle greater immediacy and involvement. Those seeking a reliable account of the Quintet on modern instruments should not hesitate over investing in the super-bargain Naxos release featuring József Balogh and the Danubius Quartet – faithfully delivered playing, and even if the last ounce of refinement is missing, this account holds its own alongside many at full price. Weakest by far of these issues features Spaniard Joan Enric Lluna, in both the Quintet and Concerto. This routine affair palls rapidly in present company; those requiring this familiar coupling should look elsewhere. If money is not a prime concern, then do investigate Meyer’s ineffably beautiful reading of K581; I hope to be returning to this disc with reverential gratitude for many years to come!

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Michael Jameson