Eisler Quartett / Wolfgang Meyer

Mozart, Weber, Bliss: Clarinet Quintets

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One of the attractions of this little German disc of quintets for clarinet and string quartet is the presence of Mozart's unfinished Clarinet Quintet, K. Anh. 91, of 1787, a half of an opening movement that is presented here in two different completions by different scholars. Both show the devilish difficulty of reproducing Mozart's style, but that by Robert D. Levin feels more convincing in its overall proportions, at least. Elsewhere this is a strong disc of clarinet chamber music, with clarinetist Wolfgang Meyer and the Eisler Quartet turning in controlled and serious performances of a pair of genuinely difficult works: Weber's Clarinet Quintet in B flat major, Op. 34, and Arthur Bliss' Clarinet Quintet in A major, Op. 50. Neither of these works is oriented toward sheer virtuosity, although there is plenty of it in evidence. Instead, the Weber is a mix of Schubertian melodicism and warmth with French heroic modes and Italianate operatic fireworks, and the ensemble has to be able to carry off all three without lurching. This the performers do elegantly. The Bliss quintet, a sort of memorial to the composer's younger brother, who died on the battlefield in World War I, has challenges of a different sort: it demands a sustained level of concentration from the soloist. This underrated work, a fine piece of post-Romantic British chamber music, attains its seriousness partly by pushing the clarinet out of its comfort zone, and Meyer's performance here is genuinely absorbing. A strong chamber recital in which the constituent parts each reinforce each other. Notes are in German and English.

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