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Thread: Brahms: Clarinet Quintet in B minor, op. 115

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    Senior Member science's Avatar
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    Default Brahms: Clarinet Quintet in B minor, op. 115

    This is one of the most-loved works in the chamber repertoire, and of course wikipedia has a fairly good article about it.

    How do you feel about this work? What do you like or love about it? How does it challenge you?

    Feel free to discuss particular recordings as well. Here is Trout's list of recommended recordings, based on his research:

    1. Kell, Busch Quartet (1937)
    2. Leister, Amadeus String Quartet (1967)
    3. Shifrin, Emerson String Quartet (1996)
    4. De Peyer, Melos Ensemble London Members (1965)
    5. King, Gabrieli String Quartet (1983)
    6. Wlach, Vienna Konzerthaus Quartet (1952)
    7. Wright, Boston Symphony Chamber Players (1994)
    8. Daniels, Composers Quartet (1990)
    9. Ettlinger, Tel Aviv Quartet (1962)
    10. Draper, Léner Quartet (1928)
    I will link to some other TC posts and threads that are relevant to this discussion.

    You can see where this work currently ranks compared to others on the Talk Classical Community's Favorite and Most Highly Recommended Works.
    Last edited by science; Dec-03-2018 at 03:43.
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

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    Senior Member Tchaikov6's Avatar
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    I've more recently been introduced to this work, but I definitely already love it. It's as tragic as a Verdi or Wagner opera, but it doesn't need a program. The Leister Amadeus Quartet recording I have been listening to (and loving).

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    Senior Member Art Rock's Avatar
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    Together with Schubert's String quintet, this is my favourite piece of chamber music. I have the CD of Keith Puddy and the Delme String Quartet (c/w Dvorak's American SQ) and I'm very happy with it.
    Und Morgen wird die Sonne wieder scheinen......

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    Senior Member Eramire156's Avatar
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    Was just listening to it yesterday, the Stolztman with Cleveland recording which I'd put in my top three along Kell and Shifrin, in no particular order but look forward to listening to other recordings of the quintet. The link below is to a performance with David Shifrin at Alice Tully Hall NYC.


    https://www.chambermusicsociety.org/...-cello-op-115/
    Last edited by Eramire156; Dec-03-2018 at 19:34.

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    Senior Member Haydn67's Avatar
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    Autumnal color and contemplation. Any of Karl Leister's performances suit me just fine.

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    Senior Member jegreenwood's Avatar
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    I have several with Leister as well as Eddy Daniels (and two more that get played less.) One of my Leister recordings is paired with the Mozart Quintet. A definite desert island choice.

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    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    Fav version I heard is this. I like the smoother approach. Huge contrasts like Peyer's make it hard to bear,for me, on repeated listenings.

    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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    I have the Shifrin/Emerson on Deutsche Grammophon. It's the only version I know so far, so I can't compare. In my opinion the quintet is one of Brahms best chamber music works. It's incredibly romantic without being sentimental, but we all know how far Brahms can take you. It required me some listening effort at first but now it's absolutely in my chamber music top 10, next to his piano trio's.

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    My favorite rendition (on period instruments, supposedly including the same model of clarinet that Richard Mühlfeld used):

    Ich blickte hinauf in der Nacht, in der Nacht,
    Und blickte hinunter aufs neue:
    O wehe, wie hast du die Tage verbracht,
    Nun stille du sacht
    In der Nacht, in der Nacht,
    Im pochenden Herzen die Reue!

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    This is the only recording of the Brahms that I'm familiar and I love its elegance so I'd like to give it a mention:


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    Default The autumnal Brahms

    "Brahms was fifty-eight years old when he wrote the Clarinet Trio and the Clarinet Quintet, and both evince the rich maturity of a composer who had a way of sounding autumnal practically from his youth. Nonetheless, the Quintet is the greater of the two, less constrained than the Trio in its inspiration, vaster in its both resources (employing five instruments instead of three) and its dimensions (spanning about thirty-five minutes, compared with the Trio's twenty-five) complete in its employ of the clarinet's range and timbral variety, secure in the strength of its classic construction yet rhapsodic in its poetry."

    James Kenner
    Chamber Music: A Listener's Guide

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    Senior Member jegreenwood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eramire156 View Post
    "Brahms was fifty-eight years old when he wrote the Clarinet Trio and the Clarinet Quintet, and both evince the rich maturity of a composer who had a way of sounding autumnal practically from his youth. Nonetheless, the Quintet is the greater of the two, less constrained than the Trio in its inspiration, vaster in its both resources (employing five instruments instead of three) and its dimensions (spanning about thirty-five minutes, compared with the Trio's twenty-five) complete in its employ of the clarinet's range and timbral variety, secure in the strength of its classic construction yet rhapsodic in its poetry."

    James Kenner
    Chamber Music: A Listener's Guide
    Of course, Brahms preferred the trio.

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    Senior Member jegreenwood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jenspen View Post
    This is the only recording of the Brahms that I'm familiar and I love its elegance so I'd like to give it a mention:

    That's the Mozart/Brahms/Leister recording I was referring to.

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    For me, Brahms was at his best as a composer of chamber music, especially late in his career, and his mature Clarinet Quintet, Op. 115 and String Quintet No. 2, Op. 111, are prime examples of why I hold that opinion.

    I agree with Trout that the great German clarinetist Karl Leister is a top choice in this beautiful, autumnal work; although I tend to prefer Leister's later recording with the Leipzig String Quintet on MDG, to his younger, earlier one with the Amadeus S.Q. (from 1967). The string heavy, thickly romantic, & highly expressive playing of the Amadeus S.Q. tends to dominate the performance, and unfortunately the clarinet part (& therefore the score isn't balanced in the way that I think Brahms intended). In Leister's later recording, the sheer beauty of his flawless tone & playing is more accurately (if a bit distantly) caught by the MDG engineers. Secondly, the Leipzig String Quartet provides a more refined artistry & better string playing to accompany him, IMO. Yet, it is admittedly a more subdued reading, or less overtly expressive: https://www.amazon.com/Clarinet-Quin...FNQ480WYZB514D

    Clarinetist Martin Frost's BIS recording--with an all-star line up of Janine Jansen, Boris Brovtsyn, Maxim Rysanov, & Torlief Thedéen, is another one of the finest performances I know. It's hard to imagine any Brahms lover not enjoying the program of music on this well recorded CD, along with the superb playing of these brilliant young musicians: https://www.amazon.com/Brahms-Clarin...rahms+clarinet

    The Jerusalem Quartet have also made a fine recording, with clarinetist Sharon Kam. She plays well, though I probably prefer Frost and Leister in this music: https://www.amazon.com/Brahms-Clarin...rahms+clarinet

    I also like the old EMI recording with clarinetist Gervase de Peyer and the Melos Ensemble, which was my first recording on LP, but the playing of the Melos Ensemble is a bit rougher than the finest modern versions that I've mentioned above.

    Unfortunately, the excellent American clarinetist, Charles Neidich (who's another favorite of mine), recorded his version with the Juilliard Quartet, who have difficulty playing in tune, and are too heavily romantic in their interpretation for my tastes.

    Finally, among today's groups, I'd like to see the excellent young Zemlinsky Quartet record the work, as I've enjoyed the following concert recording they made, with clarinetist Jan Mach: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDfx-hadA1o

    P.S. Here too is a link to my all-time favorite recording of Brahms' String Quintet No. 2, Op. 111--which was composed around the same time as the Clarinet Quintet--played by the Boston Symphony Chamber Players: I'd strongly recommend this CD or LP to Brahms lovers, and lovers of great chamber music: https://www.amazon.com/Brahms-String...mphony+chamber

    My two cents.
    Last edited by Josquin13; Dec-06-2018 at 01:15.

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    Senior Member Haydn67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Josquin13 View Post
    I agree with Trout that the great German clarinetist Karl Leister is a top choice in this beautiful, autumnal work; although I tend to prefer Leister's later recording with the Leipzig String Quintet on MDG, to his younger, earlier one with the Amadeus S.Q. (from 1967)....In Leister's later recording, the sheer beauty of his flawless tone & playing is more accurately (if a bit distantly) caught by the MDG engineers. Secondly, the Leipzig String Quartet provides a more refined artistry & better string playing to accompany him, IMO.
    I previously mentioned my satisfaction with any of Leister's several recordings of this piece, but I agree especially with your comments above.

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