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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Clarinet Trio Takes The Quiet Approach To Beethoven & Brahms

By Norman Lebrecht on September 13, 2019

Beethoven, Brahms: Clarinet Trios (Orchid Classics)

★★★★☆

🎧 Apple Music | Spotify |  Amazon

Beethoven’s first self-promoted concert in Vienna in April 1800 contained works by Mozart and Haydn alongside his own first symphony, piano concerto and a septet, opus 20, that was the hit of the night. On the notion that nothing succeeds like success, Beethoven sold his publisher an additional version of the septet, scaled down to a trio for clarinet (or violin), cello and piano and registered as his opus 38. Contrary to expectations, it never matched the popularity of the septet, then or since. I cannot recall a really gripping recording.

This performance, by Alexander Bedenko, Kyril Zlotnikov and Itamar Golan, takes a quiet approach, seeking out intimate silences between the instrumental lines. It works like a family conversation where you don’t want to interrupt and it makes the strongest case I have yet heard for the smaller form of the jolly septet.

Brahms, who developed a late love for the clarinet, reserved the instrument for his most reflective statements, notably in the ultimate pair of clarinet sonatas opus 120. In the same burst of activity, he also wrote a clarinet quintet and a clarinet trio, all for the benefit of the virtuoso player Richard Mühlfeld. The trio, opening with a languid cello line, is Brahms at his most masterful, controlling his participants like a chat-show host, never letting the content flag. Approaching death, he looks steadfastly ahead at new melodic lines. There is nothing late about late Brahms. He’s alive as you or I.

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, follow him on Slippedisc.com.

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Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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