James Campbell, clarinet; New Zealand String Quartet
Naxos 8.573454, 76 min 36 s.
For many Canadian music-lovers clarinetist James Campbell will be the main attraction on this new Naxos CD. Campbell was born in Leduc, Alberta and at the age of 22 won the CBC Talent Competition. During the 1970s through the 1990s he was a ubiquitous figure in concert circles in Toronto. Campbell has had a long association with the New Zealand String Quartet and he has often invited them to appear at the Festival of the Sound.
At the age of 65, when this recording was made, Campbell retains the same beauty of sound and chamber music sensitivity that made him a special artist in the first place. And in the members of the NZSQ he has collaborators of similar distinction. This is a magnificent performance of one of Brahms’ late masterpieces. The clarinet is perfectly balanced not as a soloist but as an equal partner with the string players, as it should be. I give full credit to the players for this achievement but also to the producers Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver.
The New Zealand String Quartet is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and it remains an ensemble of the first rank. The NZSQ has made numerous recordings for Naxos including all the Mendelssohn and Bartok quartets and they are working their way through all the quartets and quintets of Brahms. Brahms String Quartet Op. 67 is an extraordinary piece and the NZSQ gives it as fine a performance as I have ever heard.