One of the most grown-up review sites around

2019
51,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


Yes we are selling
Acte Prealable again!


we also sell Skarbo

and Oboe Classics


TROUBADISC

with Eggebrecht we get all the excitement we can handle

Book 1 Book 2 Book3
Mota The Triptych: -Website

Asmik Grigorian

Breathtaking Performance
controversial staging
Review Westbrook
Review Hedley
Every lover of Salome should see this recording
Mullenger interpretation

Vraiment magnifique!


Quite splendid


Winning performances


Mahler Symphony 8
a magnificent disc


a huge talent


A wonderful disc


Weinberg Symphonies 2 & 21
A handsome tribute!


Roth’s finest Mahler yet


Mahler 9 Blomstedt
Distinguished performance

 

REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Strings Attached
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Sonata Op.120 No.1 (1894) (arr. Geert van Keulen, clarinet and string quintet) [23:26]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Fantasiestücke Op.73 (arr. van Keulen, clarinet and string quartet) [11:25]
Johannes BRAHMS
Sonata Op.120 No.2 (1894) (arr. van Keulen, clarinet and string sextet) [21:17]
Arno Piters (clarinet)
Members of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Marleen Asberg, Nienke van Rijn, Keiko Iwata (violin), Edith van Moergastel, Judith Wijzenbeek (viola), Benedikt Enzler (cello), Rob Dirksen (double bass))
rec. 2-4 April 2012, Galaxy Studio, Mol, Belgium.
CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72572 SACD [59:08]

What can be better than the Brahms Clarinet Quintet? Three Brahms Clarinet Quintets! The other two are a gift from Geert van Keulen, who arranged the two Clarinet Sonatas Op.120 – adding a string quintet to the first one and a whole sextet to No.2. The clarinet part was left untouched, while the piano part was divided between the strings with minimal alterations. For me, the main charm of the two sonatas is in the sonority of the clarinet, and so when strings replace the piano, the music loses less than when we replace the clarinet by, say, a viola. Also, there is a lot to gain. The piano is more fitting for the “liquid”, more turbulent passages, but there are not so many of these in the two sonatas; quite the opposite, the music of many pages is soft, languid, ethereal. Such music with long notes and smooth transitions is well suited for strings. The arrangement is done perfectly, as if Brahms himself created it. The recording balance is very good, the strings do not overwhelm the clarinet, but envelope it.

The opening movement of the First Sonata is mysterious and wistful, yet muscular. The slow movement is soft and tender, with cotton clouds dissolving in the mist. This movement benefits especially from the arrangement. The strings weave soft veils that wave in the breeze; it is serene. The Allegretto grazioso movement suits its name well – a dainty dance with Brahmsian ambiguity of smile and melancholy. The finale is cheerful and light-footed, like the play of kittens. There is drive without pressure and carefulness without laxity. The performance leaves a great aftertaste.

The opening Allegro amabile of the Second Sonata is bathed in a mellow glow. I feel a certain lack of complete characterization in the clarinet part – probably intentional, to make it blend better with its entourage; where a piano would create a sharper and more contrasting background, the clarinet could allow itself more character. In the Allegro appassionato middle movement the piano is most missed in the dynamic outer parts: the music is still gorgeous, but sounds crowded and more “earthy” than the more “liquid” piano version. Also, the shape and figurations of the accompaniment suit the piano better. The finale is relaxed. Brahms always was especially inventive in variations, and this is no exception. All the subtleties are well served by the performers. Except for the last variation and the exuberant coda, the general mood is gentle, lullaby-style.

Schumann’s Fantasiestücke is almost a clarinet sonata. The first movement is full of Romantic longing, the clarinet is a bird flying over the troubled waves of the strings. The second piece is like a happy awakening on a sunny morning, Schumann at his sunniest. The third picture is all happy ecstasy, with ardent exclamations. All this, as usual with Schumann, has no lack of memorable melodies and surprises. I feel that the piano version has cleaner lines and an overall leaner feeling but, as with Brahms’ sonata, the soul of the music is in the clarinet, and nothing is lost there. The central episode of the third movement, where the “splashes” in the accompaniment can sometimes sound awkward on the piano, sounds perfectly natural with strings.

A big lover of the three works in their original versions, I must say that I genuinely enjoyed the transcriptions very much. The CD has been in my car on constant playing mode for a long time, and I don’t plan to stack it away soon. The lower strings are sometimes lacking in weight, but the recording balance between the strings as a group and the clarinet is perfect, and the sound is very clear.

The new arrangements do not replace the original versions with piano, but offer a beautiful alternative. They have been made with skill and love, and so have the performances. The strings of the Concertgebouw know their Brahms, so the result sounds as natural as one could hope. The silky clarinet of Arno Piters is smooth even in loud passages, though it seems that the clarinettist is holding back a little in places, and could allow more expressiveness. The liner notes by Geert van Keulen contain praise for musical arrangements, a little about their history, and a description of the arrangements that he made of the three works.

Oleg Ledeniov

 

 



We are currently offering in excess of 51,000 reviews


Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Obtain 10% discount



Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Postmaster
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger