Ficino Ensemble: Winter – Brahms: Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op 115; Sholdice: Winter; Ravel: Introduction and Allegro

Reviewed on Wed 08 May, 2019

Despite the stiff competition on disc for Brahms’s late, autumnally lyrical Clarinet Quintet, there is much to recommend this quietly elegant and considered account.

Formed in 2012, the Ficino Ensemble has established itself as one of Ireland’s leading chamber groups. Its intelligently programmed, superbly played debut recording illustrates why. Despite the stiff competition on disc for Brahms’s late, autumnally lyrical Clarinet Quintet, there is much to recommend this quietly elegant and considered account with Macdara Ó Seireadáin’s velveteen clarinet woven through a tapestry of sympathetically soft-hued voices. There’s a redolent richness in playing that manages to sound relaxed and reflective while remaining tightly controlled and precise. Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro boasts equally adroit and admirable lightness of touch, Geraldine O’Doherty’s harp glistening like dappled sunlight on water throughout a reading of liquid, free-flowing finesse. With a heavier heft, Garrett Sholdice’s Winter (commissioned by the ensemble for harp, clarinet and string trio) is a more concentrated, tightly textured proposition. Deftly playing with light, shade and the repetition and re-formation of compressed, low-lying musical material, it receives articulate advocacy on a disc as intelligent as it is attractive.
–Michael Quinn