Arthur Bliss’s Clarinet Quintet is one of his most notable achievements, arguably the finest work in the medium from the 20th century and one that is performed and recorded far less frequently than it deserves. The tone is elegiac – Bliss composed it in 1932, immediately after “Morning Heroes” his requiem for his brother, Kennard, who had been killed in the first world war. Kennard played the clarinet, and the quintet can be seen as a private act of mourning to follow the larger-scale public gestures of the choral work. A sense of edgy regret pervades the performance by David Campbell and the Maggini Quartet, who correctly identify the harrowing slow movement as the emotional core; the pairing with the 1950 Second Quartet, harder edged and more propulsive than the quintet, is a good one too.Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 11/19/2004
Despite my admiration for much of Bliss's orchestral music, I would not argue too strongly against those who maintain that the Quintet is his masterpiece. It is a magnificent work, rather unjustly ignored these days, beautifully - indeed, consumately - composed. There may be something inherent in the medium itself that brings out the best in composers; whatever it is, the magic has worked its wonders in this piece as in other such works. I hope that this outstanding performance will lead to many more music-lovers becoming familiar with a composition that shows Bliss at the height of his powers.
This performance is of exceptional quality. I would not be surprised to learn that these musicians had played the work often in public before making this recording - there is a oneness of conception and realization here that is among the hallmarks of true chamber-music playing: qualities not so often encountered in today's hectic world.
The Second Quartet is another fine work, which the composer himself regarded as one of his best pieces. What is so impressive about it is that Bliss addresses himself at all times to the substance of his material and its detailed working in terms of the string quartet medium. While it is splendidly laid out for the instruments, there is no suggestion of an occasional reliance upon texture per se or a kind of instrumental 'effectiveness' in the place of serious compositional thought. The recording quality is first-class and Andrew Burn's notes are excellent.Robert Matthew-Walker, International Record Review, 2/1/2005