Matthias Schorn / Minetti Quartett

Mozart, Brahms, Sulzer: Clarinet Quintets

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Several traits distinguish this recording of the Mozart Clarinet Quintet in A major, K. 581, and Brahms' Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115, from the numerous other similar pairings on the market. One is the presence of a third work, the Invention of contemporary Austrian composer Balduin Sulzer, composed in 2012 for clarinetist Matthias Schorn and the Minetti Quartet. This would by itself not be enough to recommend the recording, but the playing of Schorn, the principal clarinetist of the Vienna Philharmonic, is something else again. This may be playing that applies stereotypes of Viennese lightness and charm retrospectively to Mozart and even to Brahms, but the concept is executed in a thorough way. Mozart's opening movement trips gracefully into the room, descending the stairs smoothly in its main theme, setting up the arpeggiated clarinet figure as a kind of delicate garden dance. The usual melancholy associated with the work is largely absent, but of course Mozart wasn't planning on dying young. The Brahms quintet, too, is quicker than average and almost ethereal. If contemplation of the mysteries of late Brahmsian structure is a weighty matter to you, you may find the gentle cascades of sound here off-putting, but don't dismiss them: the performance makes Brahms' music crystal clear, and the final variation set has a kind of transcendence. This is, in short, Viennese music-making of the best kind.

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