MOZART: Flute Quartet K. 285; Clarinet Quintet K. 581; Quintet for Piano and Winds K. 452; Adagio for Cor Anglais and Strings K. 580a – Ensemble 360 – ASV Gold

by | Dec 6, 2006 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

MOZART: Flute Quartet K. 285; Clarinet Quintet K. 581; Quintet for Piano and Winds K. 452; Adagio for Cor Anglais and Strings K. 580a – Ensemble 360 – ASV Gold GLD 4022, 76:03 *****:

A young British chamber music ensemble enters the list with an all-Mozart program that is not only splendidly played and beautifully recorded but also sports an unusual item: the composer’s rarely heard six-minute Adagio for English horn and strings.

The playing is on modern instruments and makes the most of the open season on stylistic possibilities modern instruments allow. The Flute Quartet is delightfully perky, Guy Esched’s trills thrilling as surely they must be. The Clarinet Quintet contains not only unusually positive performances (a refreshing antidote to the all too frequent heavily lachrymose readings), but clarinetist Matthew Hunt dares to risk occasional (and very welcome) embellishments not in the score.  And the Quintet for piano and winds has a level of articulation and forward movement that is not often heard. At a time when Mozart saturation has reached a very high level, performances which go beyond the routine to illuminate his marvelous body of work are essential to keeping the faith over the long term.

Ensemble 360 was formed in 2005 to take up residency in South Yorkshire with Music in the Round, succeeding The Lindsays who retired as a quartet in July 2005. The ensemble brings together musicians from across the globe to form one versatile ensemble of eleven musicians: five wind players, a pianist, double bassist and the Elias String Quartet.
                            
The Ensemble’s home performance space is the Crucible Studio in Sheffield, a 400-seat venue with an extremely special atmosphere: Having an audience on all four sides brings with it an intimacy and immediacy between musician and audience that other layouts cannot match. It is from this in-the-round format that they take their name.

The recording, made in the renowned Potton Hall in Suffolk, is spectacularly beautiful, as the best are, without being noticeably spectacular, as if it were a digital equivalent of one of French Harmonia mundi’s best efforts from the old analogue days. No wonder since the engineer is the legendary Tony Faulkner. Joanna Wyld’s excellent liner notes, which begin provocatively, “In an odd way, Mozart is underrated,” make a very thoughtful companion to the music. Good news: If you like this CD, Ensemble 360 have two more planned with ASV Gold.

– Laurence Vittes
 

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