Brahms • Gál

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COMPOSERS: Brahms; Gál
LABELS: Campanella
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms • Gál
WORKS: Clarinet Sonatas, Op. 120/1 & 2
PERFORMER: Hans D Klaus (clarinet), Nerine Barrett (piano)


Brahms’s works for clarinet, all written late in his life, were inspired by the clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld, whose legendary sound and artistry tempted the elderly composer out of self-imposed retirement to provide four of the greatest masterpieces for the instrument. The two sonatas form a central part of the repertoire and have been recorded by numerous players over the years, which suggests that a new recording should, to some extent, offer a different perspective. In this respect Hans Klaus succeeds because his approach to tempi and phrasing is rather unconventional and, at times, makes quite interesting comparison with other performances. However, the overall result is of a contrived attempt to be individual, thereby raising the question of whether the music exists to serve the performer or vice versa. In purely technical terms, Klaus is faultless and his sound quality is very beautiful, but where Karl Leister and Ferenc Bognár allow the music to flow naturally, Klaus and Barrett seem to be trying to impose their own ideas. Balance between the two instruments is especially important in these pieces and, while Leister and Bognár give a clearly presented dialogue with the listener’s attention always drawn to the leading voice, the reading by Klaus and Barrett often appears argumentative where it should be conversational. The rarely heard Sonata by Hans Gál is very intriguing and, though lightweight and extraordinarily anachronistic, is a delightfully attractive piece. Although dating from 1965 its style is firmly based on late 19th-century models and resolutely ignores almost all subsequent musical developments.


Tim Payne