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  PentaTone Classics -
  PTC 5186 048
  Mozart: Clarinet Concerto, Clarinet Quintet - Marriner/Marriner
  Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A KV 622, Clarinet Quintet in A KV 581

Andrew Marriner (clarinet)
Academy Chamber Ensemble
Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Sir Neville Marriner (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 12 show all

Reviews: 5 show all

Review by Julien July 16, 2007 (13 of 14 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
I've been hesitating about writing the review for the Bis release or this one, and seeing that there were much more recommendations for the Bis recording, I'll go with Pentatone!

Apart from Ray Kimber and Isomike that still surprise me, Pentatone is soudwise a reference and still is in my opinion at the top of the mountain. As others already pointed, some companies such as Bis, Hyperion, Chandos and others that still record in PCM never quite get to the same point in terms of relaxed and natural sound, richness of harmonics, and also hall sound reproduction (even in stereo).

It is that little something that makes the others sound a bit analytic in comparison. Of course DSD-PCM might not be the reason, and my guess is that there is just a little extra expertise from Polyhymnia. Slight thing.

And this recording is a top five from Pentatone IMHO, which says a lot. I also enjoy the reverberation of the hall which is a pure delight. Due to the hall too, the bass reproduction is impressively clear. On some systems it might sound a little too much but on mine it is perfectly natural. Those things vary in a live environment too according to the hall or even your position in the hall.

The performance is where Bis has the edge. Especially in the quintet, because you hear more clearly the interpretation level of each player. Fröst is the better clarinet player with no doubt, with such a great phrasing and a wonderful creativity. On this Pentatone recording the orchestra in the concerto sounds good, but I will qualify the players in the quintet as average. Jonty in the dicussion said "boring", I think if I was listening on a cheap system I would say that. But at least the interpretation overall is fluid and does not prevent from enjoying the music (doesn't look like it, but to me this is some sort of a compliment).

Anyway, with this recording and the Bis release of the same works, we have hours of absolute pleasure ahead of us. I would advise anyone to get both.
As a player myself I feel a little strange about prefering the Pentatone for the so relaxed and realistic sound quality in spite of the better performance on Bis.
I would say that if I'm close, I tend to prefer the Pentatone version because the sound brings so much more (the sound on Bis is too close-miked, not as natural and realistic as I explained above. Still outstanding, but the Pentatone standard is too high...). And if I'm further or in the other room, Bis is the choice.

This is the way I feel on July 16th, 2007.

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Review by ramesh April 24, 2005 (9 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
For those relatively new to the concerto, there are three major considerations in the performances; whether the soloist utilises a basset clarinet, the utilisation of period versus modern instruments, and whether the speeds tend to be sedate or brisk. This may sound reductive, and indeed it is, but it is a good starting point to coalesce one's thoughts. This means there are six main permutations in performances of this work. The concerto and possibly the quintet were originally composed for basset clarinet, which has a four semitone downward extension. Lower runs have been tranposed upwards for the ordinary clarinet; these aren't noticable unless one is a clarinettist or reads the score, but the basset leads to a darker hue in these infrequent downward excursions where Mozart contrasts the timbre of the instrument against the cellos. As regards tempi, performances seem to gravitate between brisk and expansive, without the scatter of speeds one usually encounters in repertory works. The concerto is unusual in that there are no outer movement cadenzas, and a slow movement mini-cadenza(more like a flourish). Fortuitously, this means that comparative timings are a reliable indicator of tempi, unlike most classical concerti where numbers of repeats and cadenza length complicate matters. These three SACDs utilise the standard clarinet, and are nonperiod.
Comparative timings of the three concerto movements are; from the 60s, Lancelot conducted Paillard on Erato (tangy distinctive clarinet sound) 12:13, 7:04, 8:42; 1974 Prinz conducted Böhm 12:57, 8:02, 9:31 ; 1980s Pay conducted Hogwood, basset and period 12:21, 7:56, 8:31 ; 1990 Sabine Meyer cond Vonk on basset 11:53, 6:35, 8:16 ; 1990s Meyer again on basset cond Abbado 11:55,6:34, 8:03; 2004 Marriner cond Marriner 11:41, 8:13, 8:25.
The father and son combination on Pentatone was to celebrate the father's 80th birthday, and the 50th anniversary of the orchestra. As usual, I listened to the stereo mix. The DGG brazenly has a surround mix but no stereo mix. My universal player can automatically downmix to 2 channel; whether a 2 channel SACD player can is unknown. DG trumpet their remastering as 'AMSI 2', which is the same moniker they utilised for their DVDs from the Metropolitan opera which were initially released only in PCM stereo, and then with this faux surround mastering. The SACD says nothing on this matter, but I suspect this is a stereo tape, reprocessed for pseudosurround. It is also unclear whether the downmix I am hearing is an accurate rendition of the mastertape, because of this ambient jiggery-pokey!
Most people who love this work I guess will be fairly polarised into two camps as regards tempi ( much like readers who want a succinct review to tell it 'as it is', as though music were Olympic Ice Dancing with marks out of six for technique and artistry! ), partly to do with whether one views this work as the full flowering of one who nonetheless died in the prime of life; or a valedictory 'late' work of unfathomable profundity. Tough call. Reviews I have seen tend to either praise or blame tempi as moderate or extreme, but don't precisely stipulate for what reasons; whether it is the reviewer's preconceptions, or whether the musicians struggle at their chosen pace to be persuasive. Case in point, the Gramophone critic was very cross about the BIS SACD which was praised both in this website and elsewhere because of its galloping tempi; I haven't heard it. The listing of the above timings is because if you have a firm idea of how elegiac and valedictory this masterwork is supposed to be, the timings will determine your preferences more than choice of instruments. You will see from the above that Böhm and Prinz have gone for the profound poignancy, even if nothing else was known about their interpretation. But look at the rhyme of the ancient Marriner; most interestingly, the conductor sets the QUICKEST opening movement, and the MOST SPACIOUS adagio. As Mozart's original manuscript is lost, we don't have much idea as to his preferences; I don't think any of his surviving correspondence sheds light on these matters. The adagio is marked in later copies as only that, whereas that of the first flute concerto is marked 'adagio ma non troppo', which meant no lip dragging. Conversely, this also means there is no proof the composer wanted to take the adagio rapidly. The great Sabine Meyer seems influenced more by the brisk tempi of the period instrument movement, she also adds more flourishes and ornamentation to these works than either of the performances on SACD, which makes her performances rather busy. The fact the latter version under Abbado exudes rococo elegance rather than ants-in-the-pants haste is largely due to the sublime artistry of the orchestra, which can phrase with phenomenal deftness at speed.
The Marriner SACD is an excellent compromise between the two camps. The flanking movements are alert and bracing, making this a development of his early but unequalled flute concertos, the adagio searching. Whether you feel the outer movements are too rushed will depend on what I alluded to earlier. There is however another very important factor to consider, which is pertinent to the entire canon of Mozart's concertos. His melody is almost always derived and extended from the cantilena of the voice, unlike Haydn or Beethoven, and concerto instrumentalists ignore this at their peril. A conductor with great experience of Mozart's operas surely has an inestimable advantage in knowing how these works should flow, in the sense of following the breathing of the soloist. Meyer was lucky to have Abbado at the helm to steer the orchestra through what is, in principle, too rapid a pulse. Marriner senior clearly has the experience for this too, though some may feel his outer movements have too much of the bustling opera buffa finale at the expense of the core solo arias. Naturally, Karl Böhm was the Mozartean par excellence, and I suspect both soloist and orchestra gave their all to the conductor's conception, it not being a backhand compliment here to declare the conductor the star of the show. In Marriner, I get the distinct impression Dad won for the outer movements and the son got his way for the adagio, because in the quintet his opening movement is as spacious as the concerto's allegro is brisk almost to the point of being frenetic. What makes the Böhm special is the unsurpassed lyrical poignancy of the opening tutti, which is so much more challenging to execute than generic Hollywood soundtrack lyrical beauty. He conjured up much the same the previous year when he recorded K 595 with Emil Gilels. The reason this doesn't sound saccharine is because his phrasing breathes like the voice, which makes his maverick pacing sound spacious rather than heavy or flaccid. Mozart was unsurpassed in his writing for woodwinds. Not only does this come to full maturity post-Figaro, but the 'late' works like these clarinet masterpieces abound in ravishing harmonic modulations allied to changes to instrumental timbre, which have the compositional effect of frequent modulations from general amiability into tragedy and pathos. If you are a nonmusician such as myself, and like me, also have difficulty in fully appreciating these harmonic gems which aren't accoutrements so much as the very fabric of the score; when the conductor or soloist is intent on driving the orchestra on like it was a nag racing for its life at the Melbourne Cup, Kentucky Derby or Grand National, you will appreciate Prinz and Böhm. Even if you have another version of the concerto, the modest price of the DG SACD is more than worth it to experience late Mozart performed the way it is unlikely to be currently heard live. Nonetheless, the Pentatone SACD would be my first choice even if it weren't on SACD for this particular coupling. This is because of the excellence of the quintet. As an indicator of relative tempi; 1988 Leister et al on Teldec RBCD 8:48, 6:47, 7:10, 9:14 ; Marriner 9:17, 7:04, 6:53, 9:31 ; 1974 Grumiaux, Pieterson et al 8:41, 5:48, 7:25, 8:25.
Both Pentatone SACDs are equally recommendable. From the comparative timings between the two, I don't need to spell out the difference in their lyrical conceptions. The Marriner in my system has the clarinet recorded more homogenously with the strings than the earlier analogue transfer. Both are so spectacularly clear one can hear the bell or mouth of the clarinet shifting slightly in certain passages. Pieterson's recording sounds more like clarinet with string quartet, the 2004 recording like a pentet. Marriner's tone is more honeyed and mellifluous than Pieterson's, the latter having a slightly more woody (not wooden) resonance; Marriner's larghetto has ravishing muted timbre with stunning breath control for his chosen speed, as additionally in the slow variation in the finale just before the sprint to the finish. As a coda, the Stereophile SACD of the concerto only has both a DSD and analogue track of the same performance. I know nothing of the proficiency of the soloist, but I bet if you compared the track timings of his with the examples I have listed, this would be a good gauge of the interpretative trajectory of his performance.

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Review by Discspinner January 28, 2012 (5 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
There isn't much to add to what previous reviewers have said about this. Their reviews indicate an education about quality of performance which this reviewer lacks. My impression of the performance is that it is moving and worthy of the composition, which is stunning. The sound quality ranks with the best I have heard. Imaging is 3 dimemsional in MC especially when the clarinet is present. Speaking of which there are times when you can distinctly hear the clarinet's valves engage. Perhaps there is a term for this? In any case I will listen to this many times-so glad I bought this!

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Works: 2  

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Clarinet Quintet in A major, K. 581