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Brahms's keyboard writing (his playing was characterised by the expressiveness of his 'tenor thumb') adds its considerable weight to the trio, and the mere fact that the finale plays changeling tricks with the alternation of 6/8 and 2/4 may have induced Joachim to hold it back in London till the quintet had made its mark. But nothing could be more ravishingly expressive than the start of the Adagio [listen -- track 6, 0:00-1:09]. The succeeding movement demonstrates how easily Brahms could have become a Johann Strauss and waltz-king, had he so wished [listen -- track 7, 0:00-1:05].

It so happens that Mühlfeld's boxwood clarinets are still preserved at Meininen. They have, apparently, an unusually warm tone, and it would be worth while for any Brahmsian clarinettist to have a go at them if possible. These CD performances are wholly admirable as such things are at the beginning of the 21st century. But I suspect Mühlfeld had a yet more sensuous range of tone colours than Lluna can command, and am sure that tempos would have been a shade more leisurely in Brahms's day, and certainly not to the music's detriment.

Copyright © 26 August 2004 Robert Anderson, London UK


Brahms - Quintet and Trio for clarinet

HMI 987048 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 63'51" 2004 harmonia mundi ibèrica

Joan Enric Lluna, clarinet; Tokyo String Quartet; Lluis Claret, cello; Josep Colom, piano

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897): Clarinet Quintet Op 115; Trio for clarinet, cello and piano Op 114


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