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There are plenty of great recordings of Brahms' Clarinet Quintet and, yes, it is a milestone, one of the greatest summits in Chamber Music, particularly for this genre (Chamber Music with Clarinet). However, you have to indulge in it with as many recordings as possible. It will grow on you...gradually.
For some great recordings, check both those with top Quartets (Hagen on Myrios, Prazak on Praga, Tokyo on HM etc. or by soloist Martin Frost on BIS, Michael Collins on Chandos etc.).
Parla, I thought you might be a bit more prodigal with your recommendations on Brahms' quintet!
A very brief diversion: Brahm's piano quintet was originally born as a string quintet (in Schubert's combination, I think). He then went on to make the music into a two pianos sonata, before finally coming up with the piano quintet version. He published both, the two piano sonatas and the piano quintet version, even if only the last one went on to become part of standard repertoire. I think he destroyed the original version for strings. Do you know if anyone has attempted (and more importantly, recorded) a reconstruction of the original?
Any information welcome!
Replying first to the diversion, Camaron.
The Piano Quintet by Brahms does not exist in the composer original two celli version. Reconstruction have been made by some mostly cello soloists. There are two specific recordings I have: a) The one reconstructed by a certain Sebastian Brown, on the specialised cello repertory label Cello Classics, performed by the Divertimenti Ensemble (among the soloists, there is the fine cellist Sebastian Comberti). b) The more recent release by Toccata, called "Brahms by Arrangement", where there is a reconstruction from a contemporary soloist called Anssi Kartunen (who also performed in the recording). Both discs are very fine. Toccata is a bit better recorded, the Cello Classics sounds a bit more idiomatic.
More known and recorded is the composer's own transcription of the Clarinet Quintet, in the form of two-viola Quintet. There are some fine recordings:
- The one in Toccata, mentioned above (along with the two-celli Quintet, Op.34.
- The one in Centaur, with some quite good American Soloists, along with the Clarinet Trio, in the form of Trio for Violin, Viola and Piano.
- The more recent recording of Ondine with the new bright violist David Aaron Carpenter and Members of BPO.
- The excellent recording of Onyx of all the Music for Viola by Brahms (in 2CD-set), with the brilliant Maxim Rysanov (also the Clarinet Trio is included in the Viola form).
My personal preference goes to Rysanov, but Carpenter is also impressive.
For a detailed Clarinet Quintet suggestion list, I need a separate post which will follow shortly.
Since you wish a more detailed suggestion list for such a work as Brahms' Clarinet Quintet, Camaron, this is a sort of categorised one:
- Based on the Soloist (a very common and reasonable approach), the greatest and more often -by far- recorded Clarinettist is the old First Clarinet of BPO and most brilliant and technically accomplished Karl Leister. He has recorded it at least five times (based on the CDs I have, but there might be more). These are: a) with Leipziger Quartet, on MDG, b) with Brandis Quartet on Nimbus (now on Brilliant too), c) with other soloists, on Apex, d) with the Amadeus Quartet, on DG and e) with the Vermeer Quartet, on Orfeo. Anyone can give you a brilliant account of the work, at least from the Soloist point of view. Recordingwise, the Orfeo, Nimbus and MDG are excellent productions.
Another Clarinettist I admire very much is Sabine Meyer. She has excelled in Mozart's respective work, but in Brahms, she made only two known recordings, one with Alban Berg Quartet and one with the Wiener Streichsextett, both on the defunct EMI. The one with the A. Berg Qu. is superbly refined (it is coupled with the String Quintet, Op.111).
Going to some older soloists, the recording with Jack Brymer and the Allegri Quartet, on Decca, is fine and passionate enough. Thea King with the Gabrielli Quartet, on Hyperion (I don't know another recording of this soloist with the Allegri Quartet, as Jane mentioned in her post #9) is also a solid one.
More recently, Martin Frost has emerged as a soloist to admire and cherish his recordings. His recent SACD recording on BIS with some very fine soloists, like Janine Jansen, Maxim Rysanov or Torleif Thedeen is a pure delight to listen. Michael Collins with the Brodsky Quartet, on Chandos, is a wonderful soloist well supported, in a warm and comfortable recording. K.H. Steffens with the excellent Scharoun Ensemble Berlin (all members of BPO), on Tudor (SACD too) is a very fine one too.
As for the String Quartet point of view, one has to explore the following ones:
- The historical Borodin Quartet (with I. Morgovenko), on Melodiya.
- The old Melos Quartet with the versatile French Clarinettist Michel Portal, on the budget HM.
- The recent Tokyo Quartet with Jon Manassse, on HM (SACD). A very fine one.
- The Jerusalem Quartet with S. Kam, on HM.
- The Manderling Quartet with L.R. Ferrerer, on Audite.
- The Pacifica Quartet with A.M. Gill (a sort of revelatory recording).
- The Emerson Quartet with the finest and most known American Clarinettist David Shifrin, on DG.
- The Prazak Quartet with Pascal Moragues, on Praga (in glorious SACD). A favourite one I can always turn to.
- The Hagen Quartet with J. Widmann, on Myrios (in excellent SACD production). The Hagens should not be ignored or overlooked, particularly in their maturity.
So, the more you explore, the more aspects of this monumental, particularly in its medium, work one can get and appreciate.
Thanks Parla, much appreciated. I actually thought that Jane referred to the Thea King with with the Gabrielli Quartet. It is a very fine recording.
It just occurred to me: how about the piano quartets, any of them transcribed for string quintet that you know of? I don't think there is a historical justification for this, but I have thought before that the first two would sound well as string quintets....
Yes, Gabrielli........not Allegri: my bad handwriting on the CD. It turns out I also have the Mcgill/Pacifica recording too (found it on harddrive yesterday). That sounds more my kind of thing, so will have a proper listen later on. Anyone know if there is a period recording of this work?
I do have Thea King with Allegri quartet for Crusell Quartets, though.........lovely pieces, much underrated.
That's another thing, Jane, but it is also worthwhile. Crusell, what a wonderful composer for the Clarinet. We'll come back soon to him.
Thea King was a superb Clarinettist and she made a good number of some great recordings for Hyperion (actually, the first CD of this very fine label was hers performing the Concertos by Finzi and Stanford, the CDA66001).
Yes, there is one on Glossa, Jane. It is performed by the specialised in historical instruments soloist Eric Hoeprich and the London Haydn Quartet. It is coupled with Mozart's respective Quintet. He performs the latter's on a Basset Clarinet, as Stadler (the Mozart's dedicatee) used it, and in Brahms, he uses a boxwood Barman-system instrument based on those by Georg Ottensteiner, used by the dedicatee of Brahms' work Richard Muhlfeld.
Not easily accessible (and not my cup of tea, at least in Brahms), but excellent production in its field of period performances for anyone to dare.
No, Camaron, I am not aware whether anyone tried to arrange the Piano Quartets for String Quintets and, thus, there is not any recording of such a thing, as far as I know.
Of course, someone can always try...
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