Brahms String Quartet No 3, Clarinet Quintet New Zealand String Quartet, James Campbell, Clarinet (Naxos)
Elizabeth Kerr / NZ Listener
The New Zealand String Quartet are marking their 30th anniversary this year and their latest CD is one of the finest releases to date. It's an inspired pairing of the 3rd String Quartet with Brahms's Clarinet Quintet, in which the four musicians are joined by long-time colleague Canadian clarinettist James Campbell. At home in this music after many performances, the ensemble bring a wide colour palette to the quartet. Glistening melodies, intense lyricism and intuitive flexibility reveal them as passionate romantics with a sophisticated understanding of Brahms. Brahms was apparently lured from retirement by the playing of clarinettist Richard Muhlfeld, for whom he created several chamber works, including this quintet. At times, the mood is darker and more elegiac, as in the melancholy Adagio. This movement is a highlight of the disc, with the five musicians in complete emotional and musical accord.