- Clarinet Quintet in A major ("Stadler"), K. 581
- Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622
Mozart's "Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622," and "Clarinet Quintet in A major, K. 581," are masterpieces of the period at the end of his life, and they've been recorded hundreds if not thousands of times. To come up with a standout recording at this point, and indeed without doing anything radical, is quite an accomplishment, but that's what Israeli-German violinist Sharon Kam does here. These performances can be classified with those that use modern instruments but show a distinct influence from historical performance practices; the Austrian-Hungarian Haydn Philharmonic is a small group designed for the dimensions of Haydn's work spaces at Esterházy castle, and Kam uses a basset clarinet (a modern one), with the somewhat extended range of the instrument for which Mozart wrote the two works. The result is an unusually agile accompaniment in the concerto, where Kam as both director and clarinetist can coordinate small details in cadences with surprising precision. But the real star is Kam herself, a truly extraordinary Mozart player. The slow movements seem to soar with a sustained energy that very few players of the modern era have matched, and the outer movements are lively in a way that comes only from total mastery to which something personal is added. Kam's control over the overall structure is equally accurate in the concerto and in the quintet, very different performance situations, and there's just not a moment when the music isn't precisely in place. Yet it's alive throughout. The album's design concept, with Kam dressed up in 18th-century finery, would seem pretentious were it not for the fact that her playing is so beautiful she seems to have stepped right out of Mozart's world. The recording was made in two sessions in different locations; the acoustic of the Beethovensaal at the Hannover Congress Centrum, where the "Clarinet Quintet" was recorded, is superior for Mozart to that of the Paterskirche in Kempen, a clear enough but somewhat dull-sounding venue.