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Mozart, Brahms: Clarinet Quintets / Anthony McGill, Pacifica Quartet

Mozart / Brahms
Release Date: 05/27/2014 
Label:  Cedille Records   Catalog #: 147   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus MozartJohannes Brahms
Performer:  Anthony McGill
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pacifica String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The Pacifica Quartet is one of the finest chamber ensembles before the public, while Anthony McGill is an impressively gifted clarinetist, with a warm, liquid tone and a complete freedom from shrillness even in the instrument’s highest register. These performances sound like the players have been working together for years. Balances are so sensitively judged, especially in the more thickly scored Brahms Quintet, that you can always hear the woodwind solo without any suggestion of spotlighting. The Adagio, with its Hungarian flavor, seems to float timelessly, the rhythm subtlely inflected and never stiff. The finale, too, flows with the sort of unobtrusive inevitability that conceals an underlying strength of purpose; its elegiac close Read more arrives with a punctuality that will surprise you.

In the Mozart Quintet, these players pace the work perfectly, especially in the opening movement. It’s delightful to hear how McGill manages those intermittent outbursts of virtuosity without that cartoonish squeakiness that mars so many other versions–he conveys joy without silliness, and invests the lyrical second subject with real soul. The finale too features some very nicely characterized variations. As with the Brahms, there’s muscle to this music that the players feel keenly, and which underlies everything that they do even though the playing never turns rough or unpleasantly edgy.

These pieces have been recorded so frequently that all serious collectors will have their favorite versions, and so it’s impossible to point to any single recording as being “the best.” But if this isn’t “the best,” this quite fabulously engineered disc certainly stands among them, and that’s saying a lot. I should also add that at a time when the major labels churn out little more than “big name” soloists doing recitals consisting of “greatest hits” and other ephemera, it’s very satisfying to see a no-nonsense, serious coupling of two chamber music masterpieces, and to hear them done so well.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Quintet for Clarinet and Strings in A major, K 581 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Anthony McGill (Clarinet)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pacifica String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1789; Vienna, Austria 
Quintet for Clarinet and Strings in B minor, Op. 115 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Anthony McGill (Clarinet)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pacifica String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891; Austria 

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