In the liner notes to this disc, Swedish clarinetist Martin Fröst is described as a "daring performer" who has "stretched the limits of musical expression", likely owing to his frequent collaborations with several contemporary composers including Anders Hillborg and Krzysztof Penderecki. "Daring" does not leap to mind when describing Mozart, and happily Fröst himself does not flaunt his presumed reputation when tackling these popular works. While some may find Fröst's readings on the "cool" side, it is largely because they are just so perfectly executed and pristine that you are left hopelessly grasping for something that might be missing. After all, what ultimately determines Mozartian performance standards but the expectation of technical perfection? In no small part aided by the redoubtable Amsterdam Sinfonietta and Vertavo String Quartet, Fröst steals the show with his sultry tone, sensitive phrasing, and utterly beguiling pianissimos, momentarily making us forget that several other great performances of the Concerto have graced the catalog for decades.
Fröst's tasteful choice of the basset clarinet in the Concerto (for which the work was originally conceived) provides an added bonus, thanks to the instrument's rich, dark-hued sonority. Fröst is truly at his best in the slow movements of these works where his uncanny dynamic control is on ample display, particularly in the short cadenza of the Concerto and in the scale passages in the Quintet that connect the main themes of the Larghetto (kudos to the fine Vertavos for providing just the right amount of intimacy to the ensemble balance). The outer movements are equally satisfying, played with appropriate jauntiness, flair, and expert technique by all concerned.
Of course, the sonics bear some attention as these works receive their debut here in the new multi-channel SACD medium. In this 5.0 DSD recording the engineers were quite careful not to overexpose the surround channels, which are unobtrusive beyond adding minimal ambience to the overall soundstage. Balances are uniformly excellent, with the soloist never sounding boomy or overbearing. Otherwise, this recording boasts the natural sound for which BIS is famous, and its inherent qualities are heard to similarly pleasing effect in stereo (CD and SACD alike). This is a first-rate and welcome entrant in a decidedly crowded field, as close to perfection as we have any right to expect.
--Michael Liebowitz, ClassicsToday.com