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Johannes BRAHMS (1833 - 1897)
Clarinet Trio in A, Op 114 (1892) [26.59]
Paul JUON (1872 - 1940)

Op 18: Three Miniatures (1901) [9.59]
Robert KAHN (1865 - 1951)

Clarinet Trio in g, Op 45 (1906) [22.40]
Trio Bornalie: Norbert Kaiser, clarinet; Francis Gouton, violoncello; Saoli Saito, Steinway piano.
Notes in German, Français, English. Photos of artists and composers.
Recorded at the Hochschule für Musik, Stuttgart, Germany, 12 May 2003.
EDITION HERA - HERA 02113 [59.38]

Comparison recordings:
C. M. Loeffler, Rapsodies. Mercury Living Presence 434 390-2
Brahms, Op 114. Schmidl, Dolezal, Schiff. Decca 410 114-2

It is no help to appreciating the Brahms Clarinet Trio to know that he used sketches originally intended for an intended fifth symphony, since the result is one of Brahms’ most perfectly modelled chamber works. Any attempt to orchestrate the trio to symphonic dimensions would be absurdly unsuccessful.

This is as fine a performance and recording of the Brahms’ Clarinet Trio as I’ve ever heard or ever expect to hear; at least as good if not better than the distinguished Vienna recording listed above. Certainly no-one has ever played the clarinet part any better than Kaiser who has a complete virtuoso control of his instrument, coaxing from it an enormous variety of beautiful sounds and gracefully turned phrases. Pianist Saoli Saito has a perfect Brahms technique, building rich, massively based, vertical sonorities but maintaining transparency and agility of phrase. The whole reminds me of the great Wesminster recordings by Wlach and Demus in Vienna in the 1950s.

It is not surprising that the music of Paul Juon reminds one of that of Charles Martin Loeffler, since they both lived in eastern Europe (Juon was born in Moscow, Loeffler lived near Kiev and in Hungary) both studied with Joachim in Berlin, at the Hochschule für Musik, and both spent time in Switzerland. Specifically, the Three Miniatures are reminiscent of Loeffler’s great Rhapsodies. The Miniatures also display the great talent of cellist Gouton and offer clarinettist Kaiser a chance to show his skill in rapid, alla zingarese passages. The brief final Elegie is an especially beautiful work, easily worthy to be compared to both the Brahms and the Loeffler.

The first movement of the Khan work is more "Germanic" than the other works on this disk, less sensual or sympathetic to the instruments, more tense and tightly structured, more intellectual. It is almost surprising, then, that in the slow movement he is able to approach the lightness, the almost sentimental wistfulness of the Brahms Trio. As always, the performers capture these changing moods with perfect sympathy, achieving a thrilling agitato in the final movement.

Paul Shoemaker

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