Another Brahms Clarinet Quintet? Why not? If the performers have something to say and the technique to say it, why not record one of the standard works of the clarinet repertoire again? And in this 2006 Linn disc accompanied by the Fitzwilliam Quartet, clarinetist Lesley Schatzberger surely does have something original to say, to wit, music sounds a lot better when played on the right instrument, in this case, a clarinet modeled on the instrument played by the man for whom the work was written, Richard Mühlfeld, principal of the Meininger Hofkapelle. Schatzberger's instrument is sweeter toned than the contemporary clarinet but more assertive with a warmer lower register and a more piercing upper register and her performance and interpretation are clearly informed by the instrument's inclinations. With the whole-hearted partition of the Fitzwilliam Quartet, Schatzberger's performance makes Brahms' quintet seem less contemplatively autumnal than retrospectively furious, an unusual but still persuasive interpretation.
The three remaining single-movement works on the program are likewise played on instruments appropriate to them -- Glazunov's yearning Rêverie Oriental on modern clarinet and Mozart's evanescent Allegro and Scottish composer William Sweeney's intensely evocative An Og-Mhadainn (The Young Morning) on basset clarinet -- and Schatzberger consistently presents stylistically apt and completely successful performances. With the sometimes minimal support of the Fitzwilliam Quartet -- Sweeney's writing for quartet is deliberately simple drones -- Schatzberger has joined an unusual but compelling performance of a familiar work with wholly convincing performances of three much less familiar works and thereby turned in a surprisingly lovely disc. Linn Records' sound is so clean, so direct, so palpably present that it is, except for the absence of the players, essentially real.