Lesley Schatzberger and Fitzwilliam String Quartet - Brahms Clarinet Quintet - Ensemble (English)
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Do we need another new recording of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet? Yes, because this one is different from all others at present on offer. Lesley Schatzberger plays on an authentic boxwood copy of the Ottensteiner clarinet of Richard Mühlfeld who was to Brahms what Stadler was to Mozart and Baermann to Weber: the inspiration for wonderful works for clarinet. Also, the Fitzwilliam players immersed themselves in 60 year old recordings of this piece by Frederick Thurston, Reginald Kell and Charles Draper and asked themselves: where today do you find the fire, the passion, the wildness, the extremes of expression of these performances? Was the 58 year old Brahms really a becalmed, disillusioned, tired old man? How then was it possible for the young Mühlfeld to get him to compose such passionate stuff as his clarinet works? The Fitzwilliam with Lesley Schatzberger wanted to reproduce these strong emotions by all musical means. And this "new" performance on historic instruments succeeds triumphantly. Young and boisterous, wild and then dreamy, torn between rejoicing to high heaven and plunging to depths of despair, suddenly stopping, then rushing on, moving between extremes of emotion, and all that in all four movements. The clarinet laments and rejoices, it dies and resurrects, the strings hurl themselves on the notes and die away in a transport of pianissimo - there is no reverence for a work blurred by age, no sign of autumnal tranquility, no idealised indulgence in nostalgic flattery, no evening mood, no calming of a soul seeking completion and elevation.
The three fillers of the CD are delectable: a fragment of a Mozart movement convincingly completed by Duncan Druce here featuring a basset clarinet, the "oriental dream" by 21-year-old Glazunov, an ear-caressing pearl of a piece, and finally "The Young Morning", a contemplation of nature by William Sweeney, born in 1950, in which the basset clarinet for 12 minutes sings its morning greeting above a seemingly unchanging and almost inaudible ostinato by the strings, whilst two bird voices twitter to each other, trill, warble and jubilate, finally dying away to an intimate silence - Lesley Schatzberger provides a satisfying adventure in sound.
With the clarinet smoothly combined with the string sound, this is a beautiful and indispensable recording.