While this doesn’t take us into entirely new Dvorakian regions, clarinetist Ulf-Guido Schäfer’s arrangements of some of the composer’s loveliest music does provide an excuse for some beautiful woodwind quintet playing in a restrained Germanic style, that is to say, less vibrato than you hear from the Berlin Philharmonic first-chair players but still more than the French school. The four Slavonic Dances work the best, and the Allegro vivace from Op. 72, with its thrilling should become a show-stopper at parties and on classical radio.
Founded in 1986, the Ma’alot Quintet is made up of players from major German orchestras. Their playing is full of imagination, virtuosity and when necessary high-jinks. The name Ma’alot comes from the Hebrew and symbolizes the path to harmony and musical concord.
The smooth, laid-back recordings were made in the auditorium of the residential castle in Bad Arolsen, often lovingly called the “Versailles of Hessen” and thought by many to be one of the most beautiful towns in Germany. The liner notes include a short explanation by Schäfer explaining how these arrangements came about.
– Laurence Vittes