Magazine article Gramophone

Brahms-Janacek

Magazine article Gramophone

Brahms-Janacek

Article excerpt

Brahms-Janacek

Brahms Two Clarinet Sonatas, Op 120

Janacek Sonata (arr Brill)

Shirley Brill cl Jonathan Aner pf

Hanssler Classic (F) HC17001 (59' * DDD)

These performances of Brahms's clarinet sonatas have a feeling of spontaneity that suggests involved, intimate conversation. Shirley Brill and Jonathan Aner can be daringly free with the tempo, yet their interpretations always sounds natural, perhaps because they're clearly motivated by the music's variegated phraseology and changes of character. They take the appassionato marking in the first movement of No 1 to heart, for instance. Note the dramatic way Brill shapes the surging melodic line, and also the overall ebb and flow, which seems to be driven here by some potent gravitational force. Impressive, too, is the way they paint the central Trio of the Allegretto grazioso as an autumnal scene of swirling, fluttering leaves, and then how the return of the sunny opening section is slightly more muted, as if subtly coloured by the Trio's more clouded atmosphere.

Brill's tone is reedy and intensely expressive, and she can whittle it down to the merest whisper. Aner's meticulously articulate playing generally serves as a fine foil for Brill's hearty style, although it can turn percussively hard-edged in some loud, chordal passages. This edginess is less of a distraction in Brill's superb transcription of Janacek's Violin Sonata, where the music itself abounds with sharp melodic and rhythmic angles. …

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