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Mozart, Brahms: Clarinet Quintets / Steffens, Et Al

Release Date: 10/30/2007 
Label:  Tudor Records   Catalog #: 7137   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus MozartJohannes Brahms
Performer:  Karl-Heinz Steffens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scharoun Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MOZART Clarinet Quintet in A, K 581. BRAHMS Clarinet Quintet in b Karl-Heinz Steffens (cl); Guy Braunstein (vn); Christoph Streuli (vn); Ulrich Knörzer (va); Richard Duven (vc) TUDOR 7137 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 70:44)

We have certainly been blessed recently with spectacular recordings of both of these pieces. My collection features such luminaries as Reginald Kell and the Fine Arts Quartet (Boston Skyline) Read more in this same compendium, Harold Wright and the Marlboro Festival Players in the Mozart, and among the newer (and equally valuable) releases, Michel Portal and the Ysäye Quartet and Pascal Moragues with the Prazak Quartet on a SACD from Praga. Brahms-wise, I have been especially fond of Gary Gray and the New Hollywood String Quartet (Centaur), Richard Stolzman and the Tokyo Quartet (though I wish that RCA would bring back his sensational reading with the old Cleveland Quartet), and another wonderful reading with Joan Enric Lluna on Harmonia Mundi. There are many others of course, and one may virtually choose a favorite artist and go for it, but these to me are the best. And now we have another one.

I was already in love with a previous Tudor release that featured Karl-Heinz Steffens’s thoughtful and gorgeous traversal of the two Brahms clarinet sonatas, along with the Clarinet Trio. Steffens is the principle clarinet in the Berlin Philharmonic, and they have chosen well. He is joined here by other members of the same orchestra, and they play as if they had been grouped together for 30 years. The Mozart is lush and songlike, with Steffens taking much care in the phrasing and dynamics. It is a stunning performance that takes its place at the top—not better than the ones listed, but certainly their equal.

The same applies here to the Brahms. This is an exquisitely wrought reading, not only full of the autumnal warmth and nostalgia that we so easily associate with this music, but also with clarity of line, and a perfectly integrated sense of harmonic progression—there is no muddiness here that you can often find in performances of the Brahms chamber music. The chocolate sound of the instrumental tone and the burnished feeling of a cool day in autumn warmed by the fire sent me into a nostalgic longing for the season as I listened to this.

As if it couldn’t get any better, it does. This is recorded in spacious, balmy, and well-balanced surround sound, completely encompassing you with gorgeous melody from all sides. If this is to be your only choice for these two works, I for one could not fault you!

FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
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Works on This Recording

Quintet for Clarinet and Strings in A major, K 581 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Karl-Heinz Steffens (Clarinet)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scharoun Ensemble
Period: Classical 
Written: 1789; Vienna, Austria 
Quintet for Clarinet and Strings in B minor, Op. 115 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Karl-Heinz Steffens (Clarinet)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scharoun Ensemble
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891; Austria 

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