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Mozart, Reicha, Kukal - Clarinet Quintets / Peterkova, Bennewitz Quartet

Peterkova / Bennewitz Quartet
Release Date: 11/22/2011 
Label:  Supraphon   Catalog #: 4061  
Composer:  Anton ReichaWolfgang Amadeus MozartOndrej Kukal
Performer:  Ludmila Peterková
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bennewitz String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MOZART Clarinet Quintet. REICHA Clarinet Quintet. KUKAL Clarinettino 1 Ludmila Peterková (cl); Bennewitz Qrt; 1 Pavel Kle?ka (db) SUPRAPHON SU 4061-2 (69: 20)

Prague’s Ludmila Peterková offers an unusual program: two Classical clarinet quintets, one of them the most perfect work Read more in the genre, the other little known; and a recent composition for the same ensemble plus double bass.

This recording of Mozart’s ubiquitous quintet is performed on a so-called “basset clarinet” (see my discussion in my review of Sharon Kam’s recent recording, Fanfare 35:3); the passages Peterková transposes down an octave are frequently different from Kam’s, so each performance has its points of interest in this respect. Peterková is also sensitive to historically informed performance practice: She plays an elaborate Eingang at the fermata leading into the reprise of the Larghetto second movement (not the one in the score, which may or may not be Mozart’s), and ornaments repeats and da capos . The Bennewitz Quartet, likewise—yet another in the seemingly endless stream of highly competent Czech quartets—plays in a manner that seems designed to emulate period performance: limited vibrato and brisk tempos, for example. The performance does sound a bit mannered in places; the constant ritardandos and pauses at cadences become disruptive. In the end, despite attractive playing from all participants, this reading lacks the lovely phrasing and depth of feeling of my favorite versions (also with basset clarinet), those of David Shifrin on Delos and DG, the latter with the Emerson Quartet.

The quintet by Anton Reicha (Antonin Rejcha if you’re Czech) is neither as profound as Mozart’s nor as flashy as Carl Maria von Weber’s, but it is well wrought and attractive. Reicha, an exact contemporary and friend of Beethoven, certainly knew the capabilities of the instrument, as his 24 wind quintets show, and was a consummate craftsman; he lacked only the faculty of writing memorable tunes. There are striking passages here and there—a duet for clarinet and first violin with pizzicato accompaniment in the first movement is an example—but for the most part the piece is more formally and harmonically conservative than the famous wind quintets. Peterková plays its sox off; I haven’t had a recording of this work since the LP days, but this one leaves little to be desired.

Clarinettino (full title: Clarinettino, Concertino for Clarinet and Strings , op. 11), an early work by the Czech composer Ond?ej Kukal (b. 1964), is a 12-and-a-half-minute diversion in three sections (fast-slow-fast). Technically flashy, it is written in a folksy eastern-European style with considerable klezmer influence and perhaps even a little American jazz. It is firmly tonal, its solo part featuring lots of arpeggios and chromatic scales. Even at its brief duration, I find it repetitious and tiresome.

Clarinetist Peterková plays all of this beautifully, with a pleasingly bright, well-focused, reedy sound and a firm technique. The recording captures the clarinet close up, but has a nice sense of ambience. The tempos in the Mozart are a bit too quick, and some of the decisions on using the “basset” notes questionable, but the Reicha is deliciously done and worth rehearing from time to time. Recommended to clarinet mavens.

FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
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Works on This Recording

Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet in B flat major, Op. 89 by Anton Reicha
Performer:  Ludmila Peterková (Clarinet)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bennewitz String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1809; France 
Quintet for Clarinet and Strings in A major, K 581 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Ludmila Peterková (Clarinet)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bennewitz String Quartet
Period: Classical 
Written: 1789; Vienna, Austria 
Clarinettino, Concertino for clarinet and strings, Op. 11 by Ondrej Kukal
Performer:  Ludmila Peterková (Clarinet)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bennewitz String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Czech Republic 

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