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Chamber

Gramophone awards shortList 2015

Brahms Clarinet Quintet, Op 115a. Clarinet Trio, Op 114b. Fünf Lieder, Op 105c – No 1, Wie Melodien zieht es mir; No 2, Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer. Feldeinsamkeit, Op 86 No 2c. Mädchenlied, Op 107 No 5c. Die Mainacht, Op 43 No 2c. Vergebliches Ständchen, Op 84 No 4c Martin Fröst cl aJanine Jansen, aBoris Brovtsyn vns a Maxim Rysanov va abTorleif Thedéen vc bc Roland Pöntinen pf BIS F Í BIS2063 (79’ • DDD/DSD) b From BIS-SACD1353 (4/06)

Contradictions rule. Brahms’s biographer Florence May (1905) says of the Clarinet

Quintet: ‘The tone of gentle loving regret that prevails suggests the composer’s feeling that the evening is not far away from him.’ William Murdoch (1933) disagrees: ‘Rapturous, one can hardly believe that the composer is not a young man full of the joy of life.’ Early recordings are divided too, Charles Draper (1928) broadly closer to May whereas Reginald Kell (1937), Frederick Thurston (1941), Leopold Wlach and Alfred Boskovsky (1950s) are generally with Murdoch. Martin Fröst finds the tone of gentle love but no regret, autumnal but not wistful, with a young man’s spring fire coursing through the scherzo. Sensuous beauty and taut sinew mingle for an interpretation from five soloists whose fastidious attention to internal balance and every musical detail result in sovereign excellence, in a sovereign recording.

Fröst’s control of instrumental colour is superfine, intensity of phrases shaped through swell and diminution of sound, timbres voiced to express the character of words in the transcribed songs. But breathing noises intrude and Pöntinen is backwardly placed, as he is in the Trio, a reissue from 2004 now sounding dated in places. Still, there is no gainsaying his contribution either as a duo partner or as a member of an ensemble; and he enhances a performance of the Trio that combines impassioned zeal in the outer movements, longing in the Adagio, a touch of nostalgia in the Andante grazioso. The scene-stealer, though, is the Quintet. Nalen Anthoni (July 2014)

Cl Qnt – selected comparisons:  Draper, Lener Qt (1/30R, 1/98) (EMI) 566422-2  Kell, Busch Qt (5/38R, 6/91) (TEST) SBT1001  Boskovsky, Vienna Octet (3/54R, 9/03) (TEST) SBT1282  Wlach, Vienna Konzerthaus Qt     (3/54R) (DG) 479 2343GB40  Thurston, Griller Qt (4/05) (TEST) SBT1366  Cl Trio – selected comparison:  Kam, Helmchen, Rivinius (12/09) (BERL) 0016382BC

Haydn String Quartets, Op 20 Doric Quartet Chandos B b CHAN10831 (150’ • DDD)

Papa Haydn. Is he, in today’s pejorative meaning, pretty close to the image of a simpleton? The Doric Quartet say differently; and to hear how, sample the first-movement Allegro con spirito of No 3, of music that lurches, hesitates and restarts, from musicians who feel a personal struggle portraying it through varied bowing and a state of tension that remains stretched even during silences. They confront the intractable; and exempt only the outer movements of this work from second-half repeats. Thus do unusual endings surprise when heard only once.

Allied to precision in articulation is a flexibility in the scansion and shaping of phrases, of notes timed through a remarkable understanding of rubato, of a range of expressive resilience that gives even the smallest of episodes in a long line their own character without distorting structure or disturbing flow, eg speed combining with jest in the Allegro di molto e  scherzando of No 6. Stay to experience Haydn’s resourceful use of colour, the Minuet bright, the Trio – without second violin – slower and subdued, played sopra  una corda (on one string), its ambience intensified by startlingly different tonal hues; which brings matters round to the nub of these works – the slow movements, be it the Affettuoso e sostenuto of No 1, the Capriccio of No 2 or the Adagio of No 5, each one divined to be of glowing or grave beauty. And this is Vol 1. Hold your breath for the rest. Nalen Anthoni (December 2014)

Selected comparison:  London Haydn Qt (A/11) (HYPE) CDA67877

Hindemith

Violin Sonataa. Cello Sonatab. Trumpet Sonatac. Trombone Sonatad. Althorn Sonatae a Isabelle Faust vn bAlexander Rudin vc cJeroen Berwaerts tpt dGérard Costes tbn eTeunis van der Zwart althorn Alexander Melnikov pf Harmonia Mundi F HMC90 5271 (71’ • DDD)

If there is a Cinderella among Hindemith’s three dozen(ish) sonatas, it’s not that for double bass, tuba, or even the Canonic  Sonatina for two flutes, but the Sonata for althorn (1943). A tenor instrument, known in the US as the alto horn, it is so rare that Hindemith accepted his sonata could be played on the horn or alto saxophone. It is a delightful work for a delightful instrument, beautifully rendered here. Melnikov’s role parallels that of Glenn Gould but his accounts are less wayward than the Canadian’s, his soloists generally stronger. Indeed, in most of the sonatas, the primary competition comes from one-off recordings (now that Ensemble Villa Musica’s almost-complete sonata set, with pianist Kalle Randalu, is unavailable). On BIS, Roland Pöntinen is accompanist for three rival accounts. In the 1935 Violin Sonata, Wallin may now have been overtaken by Zimmermann, Becker-Bender and now Isabelle Faust but choice will depend primarily on couplings since the margins between these contenders is so fine.

So, too, with the others, though Wendy Warner remains peerless in the Cello Sonata despite a fine challenger here from Rudin. I would not want to be without Lindberg’s Trombone Sonata, though BIS’s sound is a tad over-resonant. Costes’s superb interpretation is the finest since Antonsen’s, accompanied by Sawallisch (EMI – sadly nla), and certainly a match for Laubin’s. I prefer Costes to Tine Thing Helseth’s driven account with Kathryn Stott, in a comparatively fierce recording. In short then, this is a magnificent disc, with leading or contending versions of all the gramophone.co.uk

GRAMOPHONE AWARDS 2015 13

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