Sublime Mozart

Andrew Quint
The Absolute Sound (US)
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This SACD is fittingly titled ‘Sublime Mozart’ and offers the pair of late masterpieces that the composer crafted for his friend Anton Stadler, clarinettist in the Vienna court orchestra. Paul Dean shapes the lovely melodic arches in both works with a sure musical instinct, producing a rich, mellow tone and manifesting exceptional control—the softest notes always speak without a hint of breathiness. These are relaxed, untroubled readings that aren’t obsessed with historical authenticity, though there’s certainly no egregious 19th century Romantic overlay in evidence. Both the Concerto’s and Quintet’s slow middle movements are indeed ‘sublime’. The players of the youthful yet experienced Grainger Quartet are sympathetic collaborators in the chamber piece: In phrasing, dynamic contour, and attack, the five musicians are of one mind.

The 31 musicians of The Queensland Orchestra include three string basses, and their support in the Clarinet Concerto is satisfyingly weighty. The recording’s easy-going sonics match the sunny performances. The sonic perspective is that of sitting close up in a moderately reverberant hall. As is typical for this label, the packaging is lavish.