Brahms: 3 Sonatas - Collins, Hough

Brahms: 3 Sonatas - Collins, Hough

BIS  BIS-2557

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber

Brahms: 2 Clarinet Sonatas, Violin Sonata No. 2 (arr. Collins)

Michael Collins (clarinet)
Stephen Hough (piano)

Friends of long standing as well as regular partners in chamber music, Michael Collins and Stephen Hough bring their combined musical insights and expertise to bear on Johannes Brahms's sonatas for clarinet and piano. Together with the composer's trio for clarinet, cello and piano and clarinet quintet, the sonatas are among the most treasured works in the repertoire of the instrument - but it is partly down to good luck that we have them at all. When Brahms in 1891 heard the clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld, principal clarinet of the Meiningen Court Orchestra, he had already announced his retirement. He was enraptured by Mühlfeld's playing and its vocal qualities, however, and made a 'comeback': during the following couple of years he composed all four of his clarinet works.

These were written especially for Mühlfeld, whose spirit does seem to pervade the two sonatas - we hear an unusually sunny and lyrical Brahms, with plenty of opportunity to sing for both instruments. When the sonatas were published, they appeared with alternative viola parts to replace the clarinet, and soon violin versions prepared by the composer were also brought out. For the opening work on the disc, Michael Collins has therefore taken a leaf out of Brahms's book, by adapting the composer's Violin Sonata No. 2, another late work. The amount of adaptation needed is small: a lot of the violin writing fits the clarinet well, and the sonata share much of the song-like quality of the two 'real' clarinet sonatas.

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Comments (1)

Comment by Contrapunctus - January 3, 2022 (1 of 1)

I'm really fond of this new recording, mainly because of the balance between clarinet and piano. Unlike many other recordings of these works, the piano is more pronounced and stage-filling, providing both an impressive and sensitive fundament for the clarinet. Tempo is a bit on the slower side, which I really like. Playing is remarkably sensitive (should I say 'lyrical'?) with lots of care for detail. Brahms' clarinet sonatas are one of my favorites and I've far to often observed that most recordings are (in my opinion) too much focussed on the clarinet part. Hough's piano playing can unfold all of Brahm's melancholic magic that we all love. Maybe, one of the few recordings for the desert island?