BEETHOVEN; BRAHMS Piano Trios
Berlioz in his Treatise on Instrumentation and Orchestration describes the clarinet as having ‘a proud quality tempered by noble tenderness, which makes it ideal for expressing feelings and ideals of the most poetic kind’. It was Mozart who found a supreme use for it but Beethoven, whose Clarinet Trio was written in Vienna around 1797, was the first of the three composers here to be influenced by Mozart. His inspired work opens with an expressive Allegro con brio and has a characteristically jaunty theme-and-variations for a finale.
Brahms then followed in 1891 with the four-movement Clarinet Trio, one of his most endearing works. The first movement immediately displays the ‘noble tenderness’ Berlioz described and there is an autumnal feeling about the Adagio and the Andantino grazioso which prepares the listener for the bold final Allegro, which rather reminds us of the Double Concerto for violin and cello.
Weber’s Grand duo concertant, written in 1815, brings out the extrovert, virtuoso nature of the clarinet, yet not missing its mellower tonal quality. The opening Allegro is a true con fuoco, to which Jon Manasse and Jon Nakamatsu certainly respond energetically, though not forgetting the lyrical element. Manasse then caresses the Andante beguilingly, though the pianist’s scales offer contrast. The lilting Rondo finale ends the work with elated abandon. This is altogether a most enjoyable disc, beautifully played and recorded, with the three players joining together to make a perfect ensemble.