Beau­ti­fully crafted, sub­tly coloured

BBC Music Magazine - - Building A Library -

Martin Fröst (clar­inet)

Ja­nine Jansen and Boris Brovt­syn (vi­o­lins),

Maxim Rysanov (vi­ola), Tor­leif Thedéen (cello)

BIS BIS 2063

Just when you think you know a piece of mu­sic, along comes a per­for­mance that opens new chan­nels – and it makes you wonder if you’ve ever heard it quite rightly be­fore. Take that ‘fad­ing smile’ open­ing. Is that the end of the mat­ter? ★as me­lan­choly won even be­fore the clar­inet has en­tered for the first time, or is this a work of many moods, each to be val­ued on its own terms?

The lat­ter im­pres­sion is the one con­veyed by this ex­cep­tion­ally rich read­ing from 2014. It can be some­thing very small: the rapid clar­inet rip­ples in the third move­ment for in­stance, like the glint of a fish turn­ing in a deep pool. Or it can be a beau­ti­fully en­gi­neered tran­si­tion, like the hushed, deep­en­ingly mys­te­ri­ous turn into the first move­ment de­vel­op­ment sec­tion, ex­pertly led by Swedish player

This is a per­for­mance that re­minds the lis­tener what cham­ber mu­sic is all about

Martin Fröst’s vel­vety low pianis­simo, some­thing at which he ex­cels

There are pas­sages where the light­ness of the touch and of the tread, the clar­ity of the tex­tures, is al­most star­tling. Where’s the heav­i­ness, the seden­tary qual­ity that of­ten seems the less ap­peal­ing side of the ‘au­tum­nal’ Brahms? The older com­poser doesn’t just re­call his youth, he re-in­hab­its it – mo­men­tar­ily at least. The me­lan­choly, the feel­ing of loss is here too. It can be deeply sad, but it’s the kind of sad­ness that can be en­joyed – un­til the end­ing, per­haps. The slow move­ment’s clar­inet melody, sound­ing qui­etly but clearly through an ex­quis­ite mist of muted strings, touches deeply, but it’s also very plea­sur­able. Brahms has a poignant tale to un­fold, but he does so with a fine cigar in one hand, and an agree­ably chilled glass of Grüner Velt­liner within easy reach.

This is also a per­for­mance that re­minds the lis­tener – just as vividly as a wellplayed ★aydn string quar­tet – what cham­ber mu­sic is re­ally about. Fröst

shines, but he also doesn’t dom­i­nate.

And the vo­cal qual­i­ties in his play­ing are an­swered and en­riched by the other four in­stru­ments. It can be just two notes, like an in­take of breath or a quizzi­cally raised eye­brow – just enough to re­mind us what a pro­foundly shared ex­pe­ri­ence this per­for­mance is. The ex­cel­lent record­ing cap­tures all this ad­mirably, giv­ing us the priv­i­leged im­pres­sion that we’re close enough to the mu­si­cians to be able to feel some of this to­geth­er­ness for our­selves. At the same time there is some­thing about this mu­sic that re­mains enig­matic, veiled, and it’s all the bet­ter for that.

A strong lead: revel in clar­inet­tist Martin Fröst’s rich tone

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