Quintet in A for clarinet, two violins, viola and cello, K581
Quintet in E flat for horn, violin, two violas and cello, K407
Quartet in F for oboe, violin, viola and cello, K370
Quartet in A for flute, violin, viola and cello, K298
Boston Symphony Chamber Players:
Malcolm Lowe & Haldan Martinson (violins), Steven Ansell & Cathy Basrak (violas), Jules Eskin (cello), Elizabeth Rowe (flute), John Ferrillo (oboe), William R. Hudgins (clarinet) & James Sommerville (horn)
Recorded 8, 9, 11 & 13 May 2006 in Class of 1945 Hall, Center for the Arts, St Mark’s School, Southborough, Massachusetts
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: August 2007
CD No: BSO CLASSICS 0601
Duration: 77 minutes
Beautifully recorded – with exemplary focus albeit in a slightly too resonant acoustic – this Hybrid CD/SACD release offers a fine Mozart-based showcase for some of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s principal musicians, including the long-serving cellist Jules Eskin.
The wonderful Clarinet Quintet begins the disc, a leisurely, poetic and finely characterised account with William R. Hudgins’s warm tone and easeful phrasing nicely integrated into the string texture. All five musicians bring meaningful interplay to this deep work; it’s a loving performance, innately sensitive, blissfully serene in the second-movement Larghetto but fully expressing the heartache that seems at the root of the Mozart’s sustained lyricism, Malcolm Lowe (the BSO’s Concertmaster) twinned expressively with Hudgins and Eskin prodding meaningfully at the surface of the music’s exterior calm.
Following this masterpiece is difficult. The Horn Quintet, a more robust work but with many mellifluous asides (the use of two violas adding to the piece’s mellowness), Mozart stressing the horn’s lyrical attributes rather than its hunting associations. James Somerville adopts the approach of a tenor singing an aria, a consistent bel canto; his attention to dynamics, note values and ornamentation is exemplary. The jocose finale is a merry scamper: deft playing from the strings and a bit of a growl from the horn. The elegant Oboe Quartet is more intimately recorded, and well-judged, John Ferrillo’s sleek playing and ‘reedy’ timbre ideal for such gentle writing – becoming ‘deeper’ in the slow movement – and the courtly gestures of the finale.
Lastly, the work featuring the flute, also with a closer balance, an instrument that Mozart supposedly was not keen on. The sultry melody of the opening Theme and Variations would suggest otherwise, and what gorgeous, honeyed tone from Elizabeth Rowe! This is slight music, a divertissement, but it is played here with affection and a light touch.
These splendid, very recommendable, performances not only enjoy excellent sound but full and detailed annotation.