Soulmates: Music For Cello, Clarinet, and Piano
Beethoven and Brahms’s clarinet trios make a superb pair. They share the same instrumentation, of course, yet also serve as foils for one another. Beethoven’s is an early work and displays an incisive brilliance, confident character and sharp wit aimed to impress Vienna’s musical connoisseurs; Brahms’s comes from the end of his career and veers between ruminative and passionate melancholy.
The performers on this Delos recording seem more comfortable in Brahms’s crepuscular world. Pianist Arnon Erez gives the triplet figures in the first movement a nervous urgency that offsets the music’s expansive lyricism, while he phrases the dancelike third movement generously. Clarinettist Amitai Vardi floats the long melodic lines of the Adagio with a liquid legato and digs in reedily to the finale’s rustic rhythms. Cellist Uri Vardi’s tone shows occasional signs of strain and his intonation is not always spot on, though his emotional engagement is never in doubt.
In Beethoven’s Trio, however, the musicians sound more dutiful than stimulated. And this score is so full of incident – stomping accents, flurries of sparkling scales, surprise silences – that there are myriad opportunities to delight, as clarinettist Jon Manasse and his colleagues demonstrate in their scintillating recording (Harmonia Mundi, 12/14). The Vardis and Erez sound stodgy and subdued in comparison.
Sandwiched between the Beethoven and Brahms we have Jan Radzynski’s Concert Duos (2004) for clarinet and cello – five brief, playfully melodic movements, including a polonaise and a waltz. The Vardis, père et fils, play it with charming panache.