Beethoven/Mozart: Septet in E flat; Clarinet Quintet in A, K581

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven/Mozart
LABELS: Decca Eclipse
WORKS: Septet in E flat; Clarinet Quintet in A, K581
PERFORMER: Vienna Octet
CATALOGUE NO: 448 232-2 DDD (1994/91)
Boston Skyline’s cover proclaims Reginald Kell as ‘perhaps the greatest clarinettist of this century’. Maybe he seemed that in 1958, but the poor sound quality makes it hard to judge his merits today. The problem is less serious in the thicker textures of the Brahms Quintet, where some of the beauty of the Adagio still wings its way across the decades. But the silence after this movement, when the ubiquitous accompanying hiss stops for a few seconds, is deafening. The Vienna Octet-minus-one revels in the neatness, clarity and interesting sonorities of Beethoven’s early Septet. Only in the wonderful, dark Theme and Variations movement, is there poor ensemble between strings and wind. Generally, though, with the liquid tones of Peter Schmidl’s basset clarinet in the Mozart, this is an excellent disc. Janet Banks