These two recordings are a splendid achievement of modern musicianship: the notes are played accurately and crisply throughout the entire CD - unlike some distinctly echoey and hazey performances I have heard lately - and, most importantly, with great flair.
In the first movement, Brymer starts the performance with the air of one telling a Harry Potter story to children, such is the opening: intriguing and delightful. He adds a new layer to the already deeply moving second movement of the Clarinet Concerto with his delicate phrasing, articulation and dynamics. The final movement brings the story to a fast ending, with beautiful phrasing, but it maintains and continues an impeccable standard of accuracy. Sir Colin Davis, the conductor, has his beloved London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) on peak form with enthusiasm and dogged accompanying.
Similarly, in the Clarinet Quintet, Brymer is especially moving. As far as the first movement of this work is concerned, it is played with feeling, sweetly and is made exciting, of what could otherwise be considered a slow, tedious movement to some people. The second movement, however, is the highlight of this performance, and is where this performance really comes into its own: the dynamics are touching; there is lots of expression; and the string players respond beautifully by blending into the background at some points, as it were; but still reminding the listener of their presence - a notable achievement. The third movement is a delicate account; indeed almost like a tap dance in some places, with highly skilled playing and strong dynamics. The fourth movement contains some delightful moments: notably the beginning for its hushed and telling opening and the ending for its fast and interesting conclusion.
No recording, however, would be complete without its own little "quirks" or "hiccups" and this recording is no exception. There is a constant hissing noise throughout both works, which is particularly noticeable at quiet and supposedly reflective moments. Some shoddy remastering could be the cause of this - turning up the treble possibly.
Let us not, however, lose our perspective: this is a smashing performance of both a familiar work - incidentally, is that due, in part, to "Classic FM" constantly playing the second movement of the Clarinet Concerto? - and a less familiar work. At this price, it is a must for music lovers and at this price and it represents remarkable value for money.