Mozart: Clarinet Concerto / Oboe Concerto
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Playing an authentic basset clarinet (a copy, made in 1984, of a period instrument), Anthony Pay gives a splendid account of Mozart's most beautiful concerto. He is right on the mark in terms of tempo, expression, and accent, and his tone is exquisite, with that watery, wonderfully plangent sound that immediately distinguishes the basset clarinet from its higher-pitched siblings. Pay's shadings are soft and natural, and his embellishments simply marvelous. Christopher Hogwood and the Academy give a bold, energetic, dance-like reading of the score, full of verve in the tuttis and wonderfully transparent in the quiet pages. The recording captures it all with excellent fidelity. An equally marvelous account of the Oboe Concerto, played on a period oboe by Michel Piguet, fills out the disc. --Ted Libbey
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Keep in mind we did not have MP3 recordings back in those days. The only way to sample a new recording was to either hear it on the radio, or to physically listen to it. This is why record clubs were so popular back then.
When I first listened to this recording I was amazed at clarity of the sound. Obviously it was close miked in a small English or French chamber room as they call them over in Europe. A baritone clarinet, which was popular back in Mozart's day, but no longer manufactured today. Had to be custom made for this period revival recording. All of the instruments used are supposed to be period era instruments. As a result potential buyers were warned, that you may hear the clicking/clacking/squeaking of the keys on the old period era instruments. if you listen carefully on a good high-end stereo system, or with good head phones you can occasionally hear the mechanical sounds of the instruments, as they are played during the softer passages. It is not the least bit annoying to me. Actually it adds to my enjoyment of this recording. It's like taking a trip back in time to an earlier, simpler, grander time period. In today's world an electronic filter would be switched-on to remove the clicks and a lot of the ambiance as well. This all digital recording presents a wonderful sound stage. It's like being there.
If you love period recordings you will love this CD. If you prefer perfection, then you had better look elsewhere. If you love Mozart this has to be one of the finest Mozart recordings that I have ever heard.
So why did I order another copy? Well I made the mistake of loaning my only copy to a friend and he must of liked it too, because I never got it back. So I was excited when I saw this recording offered on Amazon. No MP3 for this, I bought the CD to keep as a treasured possession in my CD collection.
I hope you enjoy and treasure this CD as much as do!
Just buy it!
The Clarinet Concerto was a late work, left in manuscript and not published until ten years after Mozart's death, though composed for and immediately performed by a specific virtuoso. The first publication involved frequent octave transpositions of whole passages in order to avoid the four lowest notes available on the bassett for which Mozart actually composed the music. That anonymous transposer probably doomed the bassett to near extinction, since forevermore the concerto has been played, with transpositions, on clarinets lacking the extended range. But the muddle is worse than that; the precise form of bassett instrument played by Anton Stadler is unclear, and no plausible exactly historical model has survived. Antony Pay played an instrument made in 1984 by Daniel Bangham, based on a Viennese bassett made circa 1800; its lowest sounded note is the A on the lowest space of the bass clef, but the instrument is tuned to A430, and that's the tuning of this performance. What you hear, therefore, is a more somber, shaded performance than any modern clarinetist would produce. Oddly, to my ears, that difference is most apparent and affective in the 3rd movement rondo:allegro than is the 'nocturnal' 2nd movement adagio. But understand, please that more than four low notes are at stake; whole passages, now not requiring upward transposition, converse with the orchestra in a different emotive register.
Christopher Hogwood could wave his baton more vigorously in 1986, and more boldly, than has become his style in later years. He neither over- nor under-interpreted in this recording session. In every way, he and his orchestra yield center stage to the bassett clarinet. It's interesting that the superb performance of Mozart's Clarinet Quintet on 'original' instruments, performed by Alan Hacker with the Salomon String Quartet, was issued just two years before this recording, in 1984. Hacker's instrument was also specially built, by Brian Ackerman, to provide an extended lower range. The Quintet was composed around 1789, after Mozart began the Concerto but before he finished it. Both compositions are among the most sublime of Mozart's masterworks.
I agree with the reviewer who enjoyed the oboe concerto more. It is lulty and captivating in its swings and melodies, and the oboe richness and trills are wonderful. The Orchestration led by Hogwood is well done as well.
The full, throaty sound of the basset clarinet is rich and Pay's playing is excellent, with good tempo and intonation throughout. Piguet's oboe concerto is superb! Even and balanced solo sounds around and above the orchestration.
Favorites include the Adagio non troppo of the Oboe Concerto where both oboeist and orchestra sing to each other.