Brahms: Clarinet Sonatas – No 1 in F minor, Op 120 No 1; No 2 in E flat major, Op 120 No 2; Reinecke: Undine – Sonata for clarinet and piano, Op 167; Introduzione ed Allegro appassionato, Op 256

Reviewed on Mon 30 Mar, 2015

Three works inspired by the 19th-century virtuoso clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld offer eloquent advocacy for the instrument’s multi-hued voice. Brahms considered the clarinet’s sound “beautiful” and there’s much to substantiate that in his two late sonatas. Especially so when performed by the always impeccably elegant Michael Collins. Partnered by the fast-rising young Irish pianist Michael McHale, the result is something as captivating as it is compelling. The F minor First Sonata is despatched with innately expressive phrasing, tempi that ebb and flow with the music’s liquescent pulse and a consummate sense of reciprocity between the two soloists. The timbral ferment of the E flat Second Sonata is realised with a lilting muscularity, its surging tempestuousness rendered with agile assurance. While Reinecke’s melodic, mercurial Undine revels in flirtatious fantasy, the funereal, Schumann-influenced Introduzione ed Allegro appassionato is more intense, its heated lyricism perfectly realised. Excellent Chandos sound and informative notes by Nicholas Marston make this a must.
–Michael Quinn