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<<  -- 2 --  Robert Anderson    THISTLEDOWN DELICACY


A notable member of the orchestra was Richard Mühlfeld, originally appointed as a violinist, but now first clarinet. It was his playing that particularly captivated Brahms in March 1891. Brahms felt that he had already signed off as a composer, but there followed four fine works for clarinet, to say nothing of the Serious Songs; and Brahms even enjoyed touring the two sonatas with Mühlfeld. He never tired of praising Mühlfeld's playing to Clara Schumann, who heard him at Meiningen, and to Joachim, who launched the quintet with him. When telling the short-sighted Baroness Helene at Meiningen that the quintet and trio were finished, Brahms proposed that there should be a performance in her room, she should turn Mühlfeld's pages, and chat to him during the rests: 'your M is simply the best master of his instrument.'

Mühlfeld gave the first London performance of the quintet with Joachim's quartet, and of the trio when Fanny Davies was pianist. Parry and Stanford were there, the latter so impressed that he later wrote a concerto for Mühlfeld, source to the irascible Stanford of tiresome bickering. The Brahms works made a great impact, and Joachim was wise to launch with the quintet, as autumnal and mellifluous as anything by Brahms. The opening sets the mood, with clarinet emerging quietly and subtly from the midst of the ensemble [listen -- track 1, 0:00-1:07]. The third movement shows, however, that Brahms could still command an almost thistledown delicacy [listen -- track 3, 1:24-2:34].

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Copyright © 26 August 2004 Robert Anderson, London UK


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