Brahms • Rota
LABELS: Dinmore Records
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms • Rota
WORKS: Clarinet Sonata Op. 120; Clarinet Sonata; Clarinet Trio
PERFORMER: Michael Pollock, Yoko Misumi (piano), Stjepan Hauser (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: DRD 224
Leslie Craven, principal clarinettist of Welsh National Opera, plays Brahms’s two late Sonatas without affectation but with subtlety of phrasing; his lightly applied vibrato comes as balm to the ears for those who find today’s ‘straight’ clarinet-tone acidic. Michael Pollock is a reliable piano partner, but as recorded the instrument sounds pale in the upper register and muddy at the bass end, so that the balance often goes awry. All the same, these are very pleasing performances.
The other half of the disc celebrates last year’s centenary of the birth of Nino Rota, best known for his film scores but also a prolific composer of concert music. His 1945 Clarinet Sonata is a mellifluous essay on a modest scale, with themes that sound as if Brahms might have found a use for them as linking material. The 1973 Trio for clarinet, cello and piano combines lyricism with moments of spikiness, and is more up to date in its influences, with touches of Prokofiev and French neo-classicism. In fact, the theme of the finale bears more than a passing resemblance to Ibert’s Divertissement. Performances are fluent and sympathetic.