Mozart, Stadler

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COMPOSERS: Mozart,Stadler
LABELS: ASV Gaudeamus
WORKS: Divertimenti for three basset-horns, KAnh229/1, 2 & 4
PERFORMER: Colin Lawson, Michael Harris (basset-horn, clarinet), Timothy Lines (basset-horn)
Mozart’s divertimenti for the offbeat ensemble of three basset-horns probably originated in the musical entertainments held at the home of his boon companion Gottfried von Jacquin. By the composer’s standards these are the most occasional of occasional pieces. Yet even off-duty, Mozart was a consummate craftsman; and these miniature trios – three of which are included here – are full of shapely melody, deft part-writing and piquant chromatic touches. He draws an astonishing variety of texture from this unpromising combination, while the moods range from jolly Allegros to slow movements whose solemn, rarefied grace evokes the world of the Clarinet Concerto and the motet Ave verum corpus. The 18th-century basset-horn is a notoriously recalcitrant instrument. But you would hardly guess it from these performances led by the doyen of period clarinettists and basset-hornists Colin Lawson. Blend, chording and intonation are well-nigh impeccable; and beyond that the playing is full of character, whether in the wit and operatic dialogues of the fast movements, the wistful or jaunty minuets or the beautiful veiled sonorities in a movement like the rapt Larghetto of No. 4. Interspersed with the Mozart are trio movements for basset horns and a ‘duettino’ for two clarinets by Mozart’s clarinettist friend Anton Stadler: pleasant, neatly written pieces in a Mozartian idiom, yet – crucially – without the master’s harmonic imagination and his uncanny gift for avoiding the commonplace. Richard Wigmore