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CD: Crotchet

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Clarinet Concerto In A major K622 (1791) [27:15]
Clarinet Quintet in A major K581 (1789) [31:25]
Paul Dean (clarinet)
The Queensland Orchestra/Guillaume Tourniaire
The Grainger Quartet
rec. Studio 420, Ferry Road, ABC Brisbane, 18-19 September 2008 (Concerto); City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney, 20-21 August 2008 (Quintet)
MELBA MR301122 [58:42]
Experience Classicsonline

The front cover bears the words “Sublime Mozart” and few will disagree with those terms in respect of these works. There is however always the risk that their very perfection may engender a blandness in performance. Performers can be all too aware that any positive response on their part to the music may lead to a negative response in some listeners. Thus we hear too many faceless performances, no doubt played with great beauty of tone and no doubt lacking real interaction with the music.
Fortunately that is very much not the case here, especially with the Quintet. The music is thoughtfully and vividly characterized throughout. At no time is this a routine performance, but neither does it fall into the trap of drawing too much attention to the performance per se. Rather it sounds like five sincere and gifted musicians responding to a great masterwork in an apparently spontaneous way - although I have no doubt that it was in fact very carefully prepared. There are so many outstanding performances of this work in the catalogues that it would be foolish to claim that this might be the “best” available, but it is certainly one well worth hearing and well worth having if you want this very logical coupling.
Similar considerations apply to the Concerto, although here I am not so certain about the orchestra’s contribution. This is very beautifully played but lacks the kind of specific response to the music or the soloist that could make it a great performance. Nonetheless the soloist’s performance is of such quality that it is worth hearing on his account. He was in fact Principal Clarinet with this Orchestra from 1987 to 2000 although I understand from the booklet that he now divides his time between a number of Australian musical groups.
The recording is excellent without drawing undue attention to itself. Like earlier Melba discs that I have encountered, the presentation here is excellent, with the disc clipped inside the front cover of a very smart-looking booklet which contains photographs, good notes on the music in English, German and French, and notes on the performers in English only. The latter lists the members of the Grainger Quartet. As this information is not included anywhere else in the booklet and as they deserve individual recognition I repeat them here – Narsuko Yoshimoto and James Cuddeford (violins), Jeremy Williams (viola) and Patrick Murphy (cello). The members of the orchestra are also individually listed – a feature that other companies should copy.
The disc is dedicated to Dame Elisabeth Murdoch AC DBE on her 100th birthday on 9 February 2009. This must have been an excellent birthday present which I hope she enjoyed as much as I did.
John Sheppard


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