The string quartet has a perfectly balanced, homogeneous constitution and is justly deemed the "prime genre" of chamber music. What happens when it is joined by a clarinet, a wind instrument with quite different registers? The clarinet may come to the fore with an accompaniment, only to make a sudden retreat into the web of voices and provoke a startling change in timbre. The three most significant works for this scoring were written by Mozart, Brahms and Reger, the two latter works indebted to their respective predecessors – a highly instructive sequence.
Sharon Kam recorded Mozart's Quintet in 2011 as a pendant to his Concerto with her colleagues Isabelle van Keulen, Ulrike-Anima Mathé, Volker Jacobsen and Gustav Rivinius ("a brilliantly successful disc of this very desirable coupling, very well recorded" – Edward Greenfield, Gramophone). She quite deliberately refrained from choosing an existing quartet as her partner, making up a team of soloist friends instead. The result was a true quintet and not a "4+1" formation. The harmony was abundant from the start, and so they simply kept making music together – naturally enriching their concert repertoire with Brahms and Reger.
The idea of a further recording was irresistible. Both works are quite special, mature pieces: Brahms ripe with an emotion he rarely revealed and ending in a mood of resignation, Reger with his densely meshed yet always transparent final work. This is the piece that may well be a surprise for some lovers of chamber music.
In this new recording, the five comrades in music bring these pieces to life, casting light into every corner, giving free rein to their emotions, yet never losing the structural oversight – and letting all this flow as if in one concerted breath.