Brahms composed his “double” concerto as a token
of reconciliation with his longtime friend and mentor Joseph
Joachim. The two had not spoken for years after Brahms had sided
with Joachim’s wife in a divorce dispute. The gesture worked,
as this, Brahms’ last orchestral work not only healed the rift,
but left to the world a composition of profound beauty and structural
perfection. Oft recorded as it is, it takes special musicians
to bring it to life in any remarkable way. Such musicians are
the brothers Capuçon, whom I had already held in high regard before hearing
this performance. Now that I have heard it, I am able and willing
to declare that these two siblings are two of the finest,
most technically refined and most emotionally inspired performers
on the planet.
Over the years, I have collected a couple of dozen
recordings of this work. In particular, the second movement
with its plaintive yet uplifting theme is music that has always
haunted me. I was hooked by the end of the first movement, which
the Capuçons play with white hot intensity.
But when the second movement ended I nearly had to pick myself
up off the floor. I have never in thirty years of serious music
listening heard more expressive, passionate yet thoroughly controlled
playing. These brothers play so fluidly, so eloquently that
any listener that doesn’t ache when they’ve finished should
have his blood pressure checked.
Adding to the luster of the soloist’s work is
a young orchestra that plays with the kind of condensed abandon
that can only come from the combined joy of great accomplishment
and a first experience with greatness. This is a truly fine
band, molded and beautifully fine tuned by Myung-Whun Chung.
The concerto alone would be worth the price of
admission, but we are also given a sublime performance of one
of Brahms’ most serenely melodic works, the Clarinet Quintet
from 1891. Written during his final years in Meiningen,
the quintet was dedicated to Richard Mühlfeld,
a virtuoso whom the composer much admired, and for whom he composed
a number of his last works. The music is almost exclusively
inward looking, calm and collected and carried out with the
confidence of a man at peace with himself and the world.
The performance here is perfection, indeed flawless.
Paul Meyer literally sings with his instrument, producing a
full throated yet never piercing tone that weaves itself in
and out of textures with just the right nuance, often a soloist,
but never a diva. This is one of the finest recordings of the
year, truly a must-have regardless of how many times this repertoire
is duplicated in your collection. You will finish these performances
with no recollection of having breathed through the whole seventy-two
see also Review
by Tim Perry November RECORDING
OF THE MONTH