Brahms, Hindemith

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COMPOSERS: Brahms,Hindemith
LABELS: The Divine Art
WORKS: Clarinet Sonatas, Op. 120
PERFORMER: Colin Bradbury (clarinet), Bernard Roberts (piano)
Brahms’s two sonatas are arguably the best known in the entire clarinet repertoire and are among the most frequently performed and recorded. Written at the end of the composer’s life, they are predominantly lyrical and reflective in character although the F minor work, in particular, reminds us of his younger days with references to the fiery gypsy styles which inspired him. These pieces are almost entirely lacking in virtuosic passagework, and successful performance depends more on tone quality and interpretative phrasing than technical prowess. Colin Bradbury’s playing belongs to the English tradition alongside, among others, Jack Brymer and Gervase de Peyer, with a wider and more vibrant sound than continental or American players. For me, these works are the perfect medium for this type of playing where richness and warmth of tone add so much to the expressive, Romantic mood. However, in this respect Karl Leister is hard to beat, for although his sound is more focused, the sheer liquid quality he obtains is wonderfully seductive. Bradbury plays in a beautifully natural way without resorting to the forced rubato adopted by some artists in a contrived attempt to be different, and he allows the music to speak for itself. His tempi for the slow movements of each sonata are considerably faster than those of Leister and, for my taste, less effective particularly in the F minor work. Overall, though, these are excellent readings and as impressive as any I have heard. The coupling is unusual but most welcome since the Sonata by Hindemith, well known by clarinettists, has been seldom recorded. Tim Payne