Brahms

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COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Martin Fröst: Brahms
WORKS: Clarinet Quintet in B minor; Clarinet Trio in A minor; Brahms transcribed by Fröst: Die Mainacht, Op. 43 No. 2; Mädchenlied, Op. 107 No. 5; Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer, Op. 105 No. 2; Wie Melodien zieht es mir, Op. 105 No. 1; Vergebliches Ständchen, Op. 84 No. 4; Feldensamkeit, Op. 86 No. 2
PERFORMER: Martin Fröst (clarinet), Janine Jansen (violin), Boris Brovtsyn (violin), Maxim Rysanov (viola), Torleif Thedéen (cello), Roland Pöntinen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BIS2063 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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From the autumn of Brahms’s life comes music ideal for Indian summer evening listening. And the instrument associated most with Brahms’s last years is, of course, the clarinet. Here, the Swedish virtuoso Martin Fröst joins the violinist Janine Jansen and her friends for a mellow but invigorating Clarinet Quintet, and a Clarinet Trio (Op. 114) previously recorded by BIS in 2005 – just in case you think it sounds familiar.

The clarinet rises from the opening bars of the Quintet like woodsmoke. Frost revels in the deep-plush velvet of his chalumeau regions – and, indeed, sustains this timbre throughout the instrument’s register. Despite this chosen voice, and the almost orchestral resonance of the two violins, viola and cello, the ensemble creates cutting-edge rhythmic urgency, and a sense of real momentum. And there’s a nice sense of angst and anger as well as the elegiac in the slow movement, and in the variations of the finale.

In between the Quintet and a powerful, big-boned performance of the Trio (in which cellist Torleif Thedéen and Fröst prove to be wonderfully complementary voices), come Frost’s own six irresistible transcriptions for clarinet and piano (Roland Pöntinen) of Brahms songs. I welcomed the folksy, bluesy ‘Mädchenlied’, and the witty serenade, ‘Vergebliches Ständchen’ for the greater variety of tone and colour they offer Frost’s playing – in contrast to the thick double cream he pours over songs such as ‘Immer leiser’ and ‘Wie Melodien’.
 

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Hilary Finch