LEBRECHT HEARS | January is the month when we all start listening to clarinet music

Michael Collins (Photo: Benjamin Ealovega)
Michael Collins (Photo: Benjamin Ealovega)

Michael Collins and Stephen Huff: Brahms: 3 Sonatas (BIS)

★★ ☆☆☆

🎧 Spotify | Apple Music

January is the month when we all quit drinking, become vegans, return to the office and listen to clarinet music. At least, that conclusion can be drawn from the CDs that hit my door.

Three sonatas by Brahms? I knew two, but Michael Collins adapted the 1886 violin sonata into a play for clarinet, and, oddly enough, it doesn’t work. Collins is a great player with a conductor’s ear for variety, and his pianist Stephen Huff has a composer’s sensitivity. But Brahms knew well how to play the violin, and it did not take him several years to fall in love with the ambitious clarinet of Richard Muelfeld. In the adaptation, Collins ’sweetest twists sound too smooth. My ear screams about that didpe violin that Brahms wrote for Joseph Joachim.

Collins and Huff give a pleasant story of a couple of sonatas for clarinet in 1894, opuses 120/1 and 120/2. Agree, but not preferably. For some reason, I never realized that these works before my deathbed respond better to busy young figures than to 100 years of shared stage experience.

Maximilian Martin: Origin and Departure: French Music for Clarinet and Piano (Delphi)

★★★★ ☆

🎧 Spotify | Apple Music

Maximilian Martin’s survey on the French language Origin and departures it’s a different matter altogether. The Spanish leader in the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, in partnership with Scottish pianist Scott Mitchell, Martin brings a touch of Ravel’s Iberianism to Camille Saint-Saens’s 1921 sonata before his deathbed and a relatively late work by Francis Poulenc.

This soloist positively luxuriates in the sounds he makes, keeping the narrator in the listener’s ear. Even Arthur Honegger, tired of the world, sounds like a fresh breath of January air. Out of season, the cherry in a vase with fruit is an elegiac waltz by one Eddie McGuire, a view of the harsh Scottish hills for a long time. You won’t want to miss it.

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Recent reports by Norman Lebrecht (see all)
Recent reports by Norman Lebrecht (see all)

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