MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around

and more.. and still writing ...


Search MusicWeb Here


Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer

International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Salon Treasures from the Max Jaffa Library



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

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


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom


Support us financially by purchasing this from

Quasi Morendo
Salvatore SCIARRINO (b. 1947)
Let Me Die Before I Wake (1982) [10:00]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Clarinet Quintet in B minor op. 115 (1891) [39:30]
Gérard PESSON (b. 1958)
Nebenstück (1998) [8:45]
Rete Bieri (clarinet)
rec. 2016, RSI Studio Zürich
ECM NEW SERIES 2557 [58:15]

This programme sees Brahms’s late chamber work, the Quintet in B minor op. 115 for clarinet and string quartet, with what the booklet notes describe as a prologue and epilogue. Salvatore Sciarrino’s Let Me Die Before I Wake is a remarkable solo for clarinet, in which overtones emerge from silence, “with an extremely high, now and then almost whistling chorale-like melody and a low counter-movement that sounds sometimes like broken clockwork, sometimes only like a dark shadow of the upper tones.” Bieri holds with the mystery both in the techniques and musical qualities of this introverted piece, “it’s mysterious music and has to be mysterious,” both to the player and the listener.

The epilogue here follows on from Brahms’s mournful finale and is related to Brahms’s Ballade Op. 10 No. 4 for piano. Nebenstück approaches being an arrangement of this piece, but one that has become “changed and estranged… The music sounds as if from behind a wall, muted, smeared with noise, whispering, breathing…” The whole piece is played, but as if recalled from imperfect and distant memory, its recognisable melodic shapes and harmonies emerging reluctantly.

Brahms intended to retire as a composer in 1890 at the age of 57, but his acquaintance with clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld reinvigorated the creative urge, and the Op. 115 quintet is one of a series of late works for the instrument. As Roman Brotbeck points out in his booklet notes, the Clarinet Quintet “is a swan song, a finale; gestures of closure dominate. The melancholy themes lose themselves; nothing develops anymore but rather is dismantled, in a morendo composed out over four movements.” The transparency of this quintet can be accounted for in its economy of means, its thematic material austere of content, the accompaniment balanced in this through an absence of the intensity that can clog the textures of some of his earlier chamber music.

Reto Bieri allows himself some subtle vibrato here and there in the performance, as if acknowledging period character. The players of Meta4 have an excellent feel for dynamics, maintaining that essentially quiet and almost secretive quality from which Brahms’s theatrical climaxes can emerge and recede to striking effect. It may be in part due to the nature of the other works that frame the quintet, but there is an introvert quality to this performance that I admire greatly, though others may not agree. By way of contrast, Jon Manasse with the Tokyo String Quartet on Harmonia Mundi (review) is quite a bit more heart-on-sleeve, more so on account of the greater intensity of vibrato given to the music by the quartet rather than as an over-the-top account in general, but hinting as much at unrequited passions as at the autumnal sentiments of a composer in his senior years.

Reto Bieri and Meta4 emphasise the fragility of this music as alluded to in the booklet, by no means pulling punches, but creating a rather special and memorable atmosphere while maintaining a convincing alliance with Brahms’s idiom. That final Con moto movement is as involving and moving as you could ask for, by no means wallowing in emotional extremes but drawing us into a world of pure music that seems to have as much an intimate function, one-to-one with the composer in his exploration of those variations as it would ever have its place in a packed concert hall. With a fine recording from ECM, this intriguingly framed canvas is one that will keep you engaged and thoughtful for years to come.

Dominy Clements
Meta4: Antti Tikkanen, Minna Pensola (violin), Atte Kilpelänen (viola), Tomas Djupsjöbacke (violoncello)

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

July 2022

John Luther Adams Houses of the Wind
John Luther Adams
Houses of the Wind

Horneman Alladin
Horneman Alladin

Stojowski piano concertos
Piano Concertos 1 & 2

Vaughan Williams on Brass

Yi Lin Jiang - Dualis I

June 2022

Beethoven Sonatas 29, 32

Orchestral Works

String Quartets Vol 1