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Thread: Brahms's Clarinet Sonatas

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    Default Brahms's Clarinet Sonatas

    Is anyone else familiar with these two works? They were written in 1894, three years before Brahms's death, for a particular clarinetist that he admired (whose name escapes me). I find it interesting that he had had a period of retirement before writing these.

    I mention them because for me they are standout Brahms works and I feel they go overlooked in the face of his other works such as the Hungarian Dances and his well-known Wiegenlied.

    Clarinet Sonata #1, Op. 120/1
    Clarinet Sonata #2, Op. 120/2

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    Moderator Huilunsoittaja's Avatar
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  3. #3
    Jeff N
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    Oh yes, I'm very familiar with those great works. And the clarinetist was Richard Muhlfield. Not sure if you have yet, but check out Brahms' Clarinet Quintet and Trio.

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    Senior Member Art Rock's Avatar
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    From an upcoming post in my blog:


    Clarinet Sonata 1 in F minor (op.120.1, 1894)
    My version: De Peyer/Pryor (Chandos, 1987, 22 min)
    Brahms' two clarinet sonatas are excellent works, and may well be the best ever composed for this instruments' combination. The first sonata opens with an Allegro appassionato that allows the clarinet to shine in quick notes successions, but also has its more melancholic moments. This is followed by a slow Andante, where the piano and clarinet combine to create an almost fairy-tale like atmosphere. My favourite movement is the Allegretto grazioso, wonderful melodies and gracious dance rhythms. The concluding Vivace is a delight, continuing the melodic highlights of the preceding movement. All in all, a delightful work.

    Clarinet Sonata 2 in F minor (op.120.2, 1894)
    My version: De Peyer/Pryor (Chandos, 1987, 21 min)
    Brahms' second clarinet sonata, composed in the same year as the first, is quite different. The opening Allegro amabile has a rather melancholic nature, an autumn feeling to contrast with the spring-like first sonata. This feeling carries over into the rhythmic and highly melodic Allegro appassionato, and it appears fitting that this work should continue in a slower note, with a delightful Andante, which still ends uptempo and upbeat. A great work, but in the end I find the first even better.

    Viola Sonatas 1 and 2 (op.120, 1894)
    My version: Golani/Bogano (Conifer, 1992, 24/21 min)
    Brahms transcribed his clarinet sonatas for the viola/piano combination, and given the lack of a substantial repertoire for the viola, they do get played occasionally. However, the viola is a poor substitute for the clarinet in my opinion, even though taken on their own the sheer class of these works still shines through.
    I treat my music like I treat my pets. It’s something to own, care about and curate with attention to detail. From a blog by hjr.

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    Senior Member Art Rock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff N View Post
    Not sure if you have yet, but check out Brahms' Clarinet Quintet and Trio.
    Oh yes. The quintet is one of my favourite pieces of chamber music overall.
    I treat my music like I treat my pets. It’s something to own, care about and curate with attention to detail. From a blog by hjr.

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    Senior Member StlukesguildOhio's Avatar
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    Brahms' clarinet works... much like Mozart's... are far from ignored by myself or any number of other music lovers whom I know. They are indeed among his finest achievements.

  7. #7
    DrMike
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    I particularly enjoy this recording. I'm fond of most of Brahms' chamber works - I prefer them to his orchestral works (excluding, of course, his Deutsches Requiem).

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