This release combines recordings by London's Nash Ensemble that date back to 1979; they have apparently been issued in combination with other recordings, but they fit together well here, both musically and sonically. The Nash Ensemble offers, quite simply, superior chamber playing in the best English tradition. The tempos in the Mozart Quintet for piano and winds in E flat major, K. 452, and Trio for piano, clarinet, and viola in E flat major, K. 498, are relaxed, with carefully wrought ensemble playing that leaves room for plenty of internal detail and yet never loses a sense of pure Mozartian lyricism. The combination is even more effective in Schumann's Märchenerzählungen, Op. 132, written shortly before the composer's total breakdown, and to this day rarely performed. They are for the same forces as Mozart's trio. Despite their programmatic title ("fairy tales"), they are actually tightly constructed pieces that put a limited set of motivic materials through various thematic and rhythmic transformations. The Nash players hold the Romantic and Classical elements of the work in perfect balance; all in all the group was making the case for Schumann's late works before that was commonly done. The Schumann Fantasiestücke for clarinet and piano, Op. 73, makes a satisfying conclusion. The digitization of these recordings has been sensitively done, and after more than three decades they remain hard to improve upon.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Quintet in E flat for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon, K. 452|
|Trio in E flat for piano, clarinet and viola, K. 498|
|Märchenerzählungen for piano, clarinet, and viola, Op. 132|