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Backofen & Mozart Quintets

Johann Georg Heinrich Backofen
Quintets for basset horn (Op.9) and clarinet (Op.15)

Mozart Quintet for Basset Clarinet & Strings K 581

Jane Booth (clarinets) & Eybler String Quartet

Analekta AN 2 9949 [Toronto, Feb. 2010]

This superb disc was brought to my attention at a fascinating basset horn/fortepiano recital in Morden College, Blackheath, given by Jane Booth with her husband John Irving, which included a Mozart's piano sonata K.330 * and the famous clarinet quintet in an early arrangement with piano accompaniment (1809 unattributed, but published by Artaria). Their recording of it is due for release by sfz Music soon.

Jane's Toronto recordings with the Eybler Quartet (specialists in earliest string quartet repertoire) are ideal.

The quintets of Johann Georg Heinrich Backofen (1768-1839) are delightful, though inevitably upstaged by Mozart's (the names basset horn and basset clarinet seem to be interchangeable).

Recorded with enviable leisure over five days early this year, this disc is competitive with the many of the Mozart in the catalogue, and scores by the attention to detail and period style, and the advantage of the extended lower register which Stadler's instrument enjoyed, that featured in the clarinet quintet's variation-finale, as demonstrated by Jane Booth [above R].

The Eyblers, who came together to explore the works of the first century of the string quartet, play non-vibrato, of course, and first impressions may be of cooler interpretations than some others, but you will quickly be won over, and this is defnitely a disc to seek out.

Their CD of the three quartets Op.1 (1787) by Joseph Leopold Eybler, the group's eponymous composer and a friend of Mozart's, is also to be welcomed; not ground-breaking, but fresh, civlised music whch will please without ever disturbing; immaculately produced and documented by Analekta: [AN 2 9914 - 2006, 70 mins].

Beethoven, Lefevre, Mozart

Beethoven, Sonate pour le Forte-Piano avec un Cor ou Violoncelle, in F Op.17 (arranged for Fortepiano et Corno di Bassetto Oblicato [sic] by Joseph Friedlowsky)
Xavier Lefevre, Sonate IV in E flat from Méthode de Clarinette
Mozart, Fantaisie d’Introduction in D minor, K.397; Grande Sonate pour le Piano-Forte avec accompagnement d’un [sic] Clarinette ou Violon obligé in A, (anonymous arrangement of the Clarinet Quintet, K.581); Adagio for Glass Harmonica, K.356 (arranged for Basset Horn and Piano by Kenneth Mobbs)

Jane Booth, clarinets & John Irving, fortepiano

Clarinets by Arrangement sfzM0310

This is one of the most important historical instruments productions of the year, or any year, belied by jokey cover images which I am not reproducing.

Enjoyable at any level, each track on this well-filled disc (67 mins) has lessons for us, and the joint commentary by the performer-scholars (respectively Director of The Institute of Musical Research, Unversity of London JI, and Head of Historical Performance, Guildhall School of Music & Drama JB) is packed with intriguing insights.

It had been a privilege to attend their pre-view recital, including the Mozart Clarinet Quintet arrangement, at a Care Home for the elderly at Blackheath near my home, and the disc fulfills expectations.

Peter Grahame Woolf

*John Irving's Understanding Mozart's Piano Sonatas (Ashgate), is reviewed in our Articles section. PGW