A life-affirmingly fresh Brahms

Brahms' clarinet masterpieces shake off the nostalgia and sound lively and fresh in the hands of a talented trio

Composer: Brahms
Repertoire: Clarinet Sonatas Nos 1 & 2; Clarinet Trio
Artists: Sharon Kam (clarinet), Martin Helmchen (piano), Gustav Rivinius (cello)
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Instrumental
Label: Berlin Classics 0016382BC 

In 1890, Brahms declared that he was about to hang up his composing shoes for good. However, the following year he heard a performance given by the clarinettist Richard Mühlfield, whom he excitedly described as ‘the greatest wind player alive’ – the result of this discovery was the three masterworks on this disc and the Clarinet Quintet. The predominate tendency is to treat these particular pieces with a misty-eyed nostalgia, so what a relief to hear them played with such life-affirming freshness and energy. Rarely has the reflective opening movement of the Second Sonata sounded as beguiling as here.