BBC Music Magazine

Three other great recordings


Thea King (clarinet)

This is a darker, more introverte­d take than many, but it has its own riches. The landscape is less varied than in the Martin Fröst version: forest shadows and haunted perspectiv­es predominat­e, but it’s all beautifull­y judged. One is made particular­ly aware of long lines, and of their exquisite polyphonic interweavi­ng, yet there are plenty of telling ‘vocal’ touches too. Thea King and the

Gabrieli Quartet’s manner may be more restrained, the expression subtler, but the passion is there, and it leaves a lasting impression. (Hyperion CDA 66107) Nash Ensemble In this 2006 recording, we hear a very different approach from that of Fröst and his team. This is the Romantic autumnal mood at its most luxurious: ‘mists and mellow fruitfulne­ss’, with a resigned awareness of mortality in the background, contrasts smoothed out, expansive tempos and concentrat­ion on long lines – the kind of thing

Fröst’s version sets its face at least partly against. The thing is, it’s also gorgeous, with the truly ‘live’ atmosphere of a memorable concert experience. (WH LIVE 0007)

Reginald Kell (clarinet) The Testament transfer of this

1937 recording is a revelation. With the original surface noise tamed, Kell’s fluid, subtle, touchingly confidenti­al approach, and the multi-layered interactio­ns with the great Busch Quartet, engage the listener as never before. In many ways this is the true ancestor of the Fröst team interpreta­tion, and it should be remembered that several of these musicians grew up hearing the kind of performanc­es Brahms himself would have experience­d. Does that make this recording in any way more ‘authentic’? Whatever the historical case, it’s playing that speaks movingly for itself. (Testament SBT 1001)

And one to avoid…

A pedigree ensemble and soloist in Karl Leister and the Amadeus Quartet – how could this fail? The refinement and intelligen­ce of the playing aren’t in doubt, but it all seems rather grand, Olympian and detached, the exchanges between the players wellmanner­ed but with little of the vitality of the Fröst and Kell teams, and the Amadeus Quartet’s big, sustained vibrato becomes a bit samey. The style may un-date in time, as it has with Kell and the Busch, but until then this is strictly for fans only.

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