Karin Dornbusch / Simon Gaudenz

Mozart: Clarinet Concerto; Schubert: Symphony No. 5

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The booklet notes by Anna-Barbara Schmidt, given in English and German, are in the nature of a justification for the performances on the album: of the Schubert Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, D. 485, she wrote, "It stands out for its wonderful thematic inventiveness, which, however, cannot be achieved at all with a substantial and full symphonic sound." The Collegium Musicum Basel, despite its vaguely Baroque-sounding name, is not a historical-instrument group but a longstanding small Swiss orchestra, originally composed of members of the orchestra of the Basel opera. Under its young conductor Simon Gaudenz, the orchestra indeed offers small, transparent readings in which the first violin line is pulled back to reveal contrapuntal details and thematic linkages. This is the sort of dry, detailed performance in which the Swiss seem to specialize, and it's likely to inspire quite a variety of individual reactions; forward momentum and lyricism are tamped down. Here's one individual reaction: the Schubert is actually quite successful. Gaudenz runs counter to type with the work, which is usually given a wistful, Mozartian quality; he carves out sharply different personalities for the four movements and pulls enough unusual detail out of the score to make it seem as though the work is looking forward, to the Romantic chamber symphony, and not back. It's a fresh and compelling reading. The Mozart Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622, features a crisp performance by Sweden's Karin Dornbusch, but the orchestral exposition in the opening movement gives you a bit of a tough slog to get there with its resolute dispassion. Still, an interesting recording that showcases some obviously talented young European performers and offers clear sound from the new and innovative Leipzig-based label Genuin.

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