<< -- 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
[listen -- track 3, 1:24-2:34].
Copyright © 26 August 2004
Robert Anderson, London UK