Nothing displays Mozart’s unique mixture of lyrical beauty and emotional ambiguity more clearly than his chamber music. In the three masterful works presented on this beautifully recorded multichannel SACD, we hear music composed for three virtuosi friends of the composer. The Clarinet Quintet in A Major was written for Anton Stadler, who premiered the work in December 1789. The clarinet, with its three accidentals in the key signature, symbolizes the magic number three, making it the ideal instrument of freemasonry. Because of this extra-musical significance, Mozart invested each of his clarinet compositions with a special warmth and tenderness along with that autumnal beauty found in all of his late works. The dark expressiveness of the period clarinet is punctuated by the audible clatter of its keys, the price of authenticity. If you are turned off by period performances, the clarinet’s background noise may remind you why. Nevertheless, the performance is probing and expressive, imbued with the melancholy that permeates the piece. Mr. Coppola is a tasteful clarinetist who always plays within the music.
The Quintet for Horn is uniquely scored for one violin, two violas and cello, deepening the tessitura of the piece as if recreating an ancient call to harvest. Composed for Mozart’s friend and nearly constant object of good-natured ridicule, the horn virtuoso Ignaz Leitgeb, it was most likely first performed in late 1782. At that time the horn was still valveless, its range increased by placing the hand in the bell. The gregarious Horn Quintet is high-spirited music: rustic and cheerful and is played as such by Mr. Madeuf on this recording. The Quartet for Oboe and Strings is the earliest piece recorded here. Composed in Munich in early 1781 for oboist Friedrich Ramm, Mozart was just finding his mature voice. He created an Oboe Quartet of ethereal beauty, intimate and refined. Oboist Patrick Beaugiraud’s playing is supple and lively, though not as smoothly lyrical as Lajos Lencses on his splendid 1995 recording for the Capriccio label. The Kuijken String Quartet are always solid musical partners, never interfering with the soloists. These performances are charming and warmly satisfying. However, they occasionally suffer from a lack of the interpretive delicacy necessary to highlight Mozart’s sheer sensual beauty. The multichannel SACD sound is spacious and warm, always buoyant and well located in space. The CD stereo sound is somewhat narrower in width, less spatially defined but still rich and full.
— Mike Birman