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Jonathan Woolf
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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op.115; version for viola (1891) [39:20]
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Lament, H.101 (1912), version for two violas, edited by Paul Hindmarsh [8:21]
Robert MANN (b.1920)
Dreamtime, for solo viola (1980s) [5:52]
David Aaron Carpenter (viola)
Members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra: Bernhard Hartog (violin): Rüdiger Liebermann (violin): Walter Küssner (viola): Stephan Koncz (cello)
rec. February 2013, Kammermusiksaal, Berlin Philharmonie and June 2013, Oktaven Audio Studio, Yonkers, NY (Mann)
ONDINE ODE 1246-2 [53:33]

The centrepiece of David Aaron Carpenter’s recital is Brahms’s own arrangement of his Clarinet Quintet, recast for viola. Though the two Clarinet Sonatas are well-known in their arrangement for viola, the Quintet is very much less often heard, and almost never on the concert stage. Carpenter joins with some leading players from the Berlin Philharmonic; Bernhard Hartog and Rüdiger Liebermann (violins), Walter Küssner (viola), and cellist Stephan Koncz for a reading that honours the music’s richly warm qualities, whilst also vesting the faster music with requisite energy. The viola can’t quite lead the dance in the more folkloric episodes - I’m thinking in particular of the Scherzo - and it’s here that one most acutely misses the clarinet’s greater mobility and sense of affiliation with lighter dance music. The viola lends an inevitable tonal homogeneity that can’t quite unshackle itself sufficiently to characterise these passages to the music’s ultimate advantage. That’s no reflection on Carpenter, who phrases with great skill, and freights his playing with intelligence and sensitivity. I’ve not heard Yuri Bashmet’s recording of the work with members of his Moscow Soloists but I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed by the Olympian standards displayed by Carpenter and his Berlin Philharmonic confreres. How often you’d want to hear the work recast in this way, though, is largely a personal question.
Two smaller works keep company with the forty-minute Brahms. Frank Bridge’s Lament has been recorded a few times. It’s numbered H.117 in the documentation but I don’t think that can be right, and I’ve amended it accordingly. The viola was Bridge’s instrument, and as an experienced quartet player he knew precisely how to calibrate effects. Carpenter and Walter Küssner make for an opulently toned pairing in a recommendable reading. Don’t be fooled either by the notes which ascribe the arrangement to Paul Hindemith in 1980. It’s by Paul Hindmarsh - and the track listing, at least, is correct. Finally there is Dreamtime for solo viola. It was written by the distinguished Robert Mann, of the Juilliard Quartet, originally as a solo violin piece for Itzhak Perlman on the occasion of his wife’s birthday. It was later to become part of a larger work, a suite called Three Kinds of Slow. The first movement is a wistful, slumbering one, followed by an angular, lively Tarantella. It’s beautifully played, and recorded.
If you admire Carpenter, a regular Ondine artist, you will most certainly appreciate his artistry and skill, and that of his colleagues, in this latest disc.
Jonathan Woolf