Mozart • Weber
Julian Bliss (clarinet);
Signum Records SIGCD 552 58:53 mins Inspired by his friendship with clarinettist Anton Stadler, Mozart not only invented the genre of clarinet quintet but resolved at a stroke the problems of integrating the clarinet line into the string texture to an extent unmatched until Brahms’s great work of a century later. Intervening quintets by such composers as Weber and Spohr tended to resort to a simpler, more concertante concept, with strings mainly deployed as accompaniment to the clarinet.
So Julian Bliss sounds well to the fore in the Weber Clarinet Quintet in B flat. Completed in
1815 for the clarinet virtuoso ★einrich Baermann, this is a genial, tuneful work making no great claims to depth, though its crepuscular slow movement is a gem of early Romanticism. Riding the Carducci Quartet’s neatly articulated or sensitively sustained accompaniments, Bliss tackles the score with a piercingly pure, vibratoless tone, suitably veiled for the Adagio, yet rising effortlessly to the virtuoso cartwheels near the end of the finale. Such timbral focus places a premium on precise intonation, and just occasionally Bliss appears to play slightly ‘under the note’.
But there is no hint of this in the Mozart Quintet. ★ere he deploys the so-called basset clarinet that Stadler favoured, with an extra four bottom notes – and wonderfully cavernous they sound. Yet the whole reading has a pleasing impulse, balance and bloom, while the serene beauty these players find in the last bars of the Larghetto amounts to a mystery. Bayan Northcott