Mozart's Clarinet Quintet in A major, K. 581, was composed for the basset or bass clarinet, a then-new instrument that was the subject of experimentation from the foremost Viennese clarinet virtuoso of the day (and one of the beleaguered Mozart's friends), Anton Stadler. British clarinetist Colin Lawson and the intriguingly named strings of the Revolutionary Drawing Room give a strong performance of the work, with Lawson playing a copy of a period basset clarinet that has an extremely attractive hazy tone. It's unusually good for a rendering on a small specialist label, but it's just the beginning of the fun. The real interest, and the reason every Mozartian should consider this album for purchase, comes with the small pieces that round out the album. All are fragments, completed by various people, in which Mozart tried to work out the beautiful balance between virtuosity and melody that has made the Clarinet Quintet one of his most beloved pieces. They are essentially sketches, and since such a thing is rare indeed for Mozart, from whom perfectly formed music flowed like water, they are of the most intense interest. They embody several different solutions to the problem of both using the clarinet's full capabilities and integrating it into the ensemble, and there is a palpable sense of hearing Mozart work out the problem. A pair of other old clarinets make their appearance and help fill out an unusually detailed picture of a specific phase of Mozart's career. Strongly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Quintet in A, K. 581|