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alternatively Crotchet

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in A minor, Op. 102 (1887) [34:25]
Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115 (1891) [37:10]
Renaud Capuçon (violin); Gautier Capuçon  (cello); Paul Meyer (clarinet); Aki Saulière (violin); Béatrice Muthelet (viola)
Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester/Myung-Whun Chung
rec. Double concerto: 8-10 April 2007, Vienna Musikverein; Clarinet Quintet: 9-10 July 2007, Eglise du Bon Secours, Paris.
VIRGIN CLASSICS 3951472 [72:21] 


Experience Classicsonline

This recording of the Double stands at a considerable stylistic remove from the muscular heroics of such lions of the repertoire as Thibaud/Casals, Heifetz/Feuermann and Oistrakh/Fournier, to mention only three of the more obvious examples on record. It stands even at a distinct remove from one of the more recent ventures – the Julia Fischer/Daniel Müller-Schott Pentatone disc conducted by Kreizberg.

The Capuçon brothers are established chamber partners and this is the approach they adopt throughout the Concerto – an emollient, flexible but essentially small-scaled and intimate performance that baulks at rhetorical gestures. The opening statements from both Gautier Capuçon and the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester are measured in their approach; the orchestra in particular ensures that it’s not overpowering. Gautier Capuçon brings an almost quasi-improvisational sense to his ruminative statements, seemingly eliding over bar lines with intimacy and freedom within bounds. And there’s a measured refinement to the orchestral strings that underlies this approach, reinforcing its expressive contours. Chung stresses the cohesive rounded warmth of the brass rather more, in fact, than the romantic fissures that underlie the music. 

It’s an approach both subtle and sensitive that reminds me in passing of a broadcast performance given by the rather higher profile team of Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis, one that shared these intimate and inward looking instincts. The subtlety can be best examined perhaps in the slow movement where the wind principals’ phrasing tapers with great refinement and the string soloists’s weight of bow pressure and vibrato colour is impressive. Their light wristy bowing is most evident in the finale, rhythmically well sprung, albeit at one point the cellist’s tone sounds ungainly (at 4:01). 

It’s a strong point of view albeit one that I find tends to promote reflective, legato warmth rather at the expense of tensile strength. But for those for whom heroics are anathema here the Capuçon brothers will come as balm. 

The companion work is one guaranteed, pretty much, to share the reflective, internalized feelings projected in the Double Concerto. Once again those moments of overt masculinity in the Clarinet Quintet – for all the “autumnal” baggage that attends it - take second place to intimacy and delicacy. Articulation is precise; the playing is languid, mellifluous, rounded, warm and lyric. Paul Meyer is an assured and sympathetic player. But the corporate feeling is, to me, skewed too firmly one way. In this respect, as in the Concerto, it tends to offer only a partial view of the work. 

Jonathan Woolf

see also Reviews by Kevin Sutton and Tim Perry


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