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Johannes Brahms (NY Philomusica)
New York Philomusica
Johannes Brahms (NY Philomusica)
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #1

Near the other end of his life span, and after announcing his retirement, Brahms was inspired to compose the Trio in A minor for clarinet, cello and piano by a clarinetist he encountered in the city of Meiningen named Rich...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: New York Philomusica
Title: Johannes Brahms (NY Philomusica)
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: NY Philomusica Records
Original Release Date: 3/25/1997
Release Date: 3/25/1997
Album Type: Enhanced
Genre: Classical
Styles: Chamber Music, Historical Periods, Classical (c.1770-1830)
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 741843000627


Product Description
Near the other end of his life span, and after announcing his retirement, Brahms was inspired to compose the Trio in A minor for clarinet, cello and piano by a clarinetist he encountered in the city of Meiningen named Richard Mühlfeld. Brahms considered Mühlfeld the finest wind player he had heard - his "dear nightingale". The Trio is a work of introspection to be sure. There are no more heights to be conquered here. Rather the view is one of satisfied contemplation of the beauty wrought in his "nightingale's" song. With the composition of his Quartet in G minor in early 1863, Brahms introduced some distinctly non-traditional formal elements. One hears this young titan reaching for the voice that would establish him as one of the great symphonists of all time. He took good advantage of the cross currents of central European cultures abounding during that period. The exuberant "Hungarian" finale of this quartet will nearly always bring an audience to its feet. On this CD, New York Philomusica captures the innovative spirit that makes Brahms a favorite of audiences everywhere.

CD Reviews

An in your face recording and something you may not expect
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 07/27/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I bought this recording of Brahms clarinet trio and Op. 25 piano quartet because of the pairing. I'd been seeking a recording of the trio and have owned many of the quartet, which is one of my favorite Brahms pieces in either the chamber format or in Schoenberg's orchestrated version. At the time I made this purchase, I had no version of either piece in my library.

What struck me most immediately about this is the in your face recording, especially of the trio. The Philomusica players -- cellist Melissa Meell, clarinetist David Krakauer, pianist Robert Levin, violist Ah Ling Neu and violinist Adela Pena -- are so close they may as well be in your living room. I haven't heard a recording this close in some time. As the other reviewer here says, it can be uncomfortably close for listeners that prefer a more distant sound or those that prefer the ambience of the recording environment to play a role in the goings on.

The young Robert Levin's piano playing (this recording was made in 1991) in the trio is so dominant he nearly drowns out the lead instrument on several occasions. I'd always heard Levin on period keyboards and was surprised to hear him play a modern piano in this recording, expecially with the heavy romantic pedal and rubato he employs. All told, I like the rendering of the music -- the trio plays with a frothy, heady engagement and passion although I think they metrics could be better. Listeners wanting passion and a modern recording would not be disappointed with this one.

The passionate performance did not prepare me for the quartet's approach to the Op. 25 piano quartet, one of Brahms greatest and most popular compostions. Compared to the last recording I heard of this -- led by popular and fiery pianist Martha Argerich -- the players adopt a far more reserved approach, as if Op. 25 qualifies with Brahms Op. 98 Symphony No. 4 among his later philosophizing, autumnal moments. I can't say I've ever heard this music approached this way -- even though the players kicked it in gear during the gypsy dance fourth movement. I'd say their approach works well and gives you a view of the music to which you may not have previously been exposed.

Recorded on the New York Philomusica's label in DDD, the packaging is neither exemplary nor a failure. A six-page tri-fold insert includes Robert Johnson's basic notes about the music with pictures of the performers and a lot of PR about the New York Philomusica and its music making schedule.

I've been pleased I bought this CD; it met my need to have the two pieces together on the same recording and contains satisfactory performances of both, from my perspective. Since most people apparently want the clarinet trio with the clarinet sonatas or Brahms' other clarinet music, and others will want the piano quartet in an integral set with Op. 60 or all three, tihs may not be the perfect recoridng for everyone. For those that like it as it is, or think they may like it, it will do just fine as long as you can adjust to the up close recording."
Almost Too Good
Keith Otis Edwards | Dearbron, MI United States | 10/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I often reflect on why classical music votaries settle for or even prefer old analogue recordings and what are euphemistically called "vintage" recordings. The reason seems obvious - many lovers of classical music are old and stupid, and still others love analogue LPs&78s because they're old - like treasured relics in a museum. Accordingly, an old recording must be more valuable than a modern recording.

But after listening to this CD for the hundredth-or-so time, I began to consider the disadvantages of this digital recording.

In the Brahms Trio in A-minor, the clarinet and cello are recorded close to the microphone, and as a result, you can hear the keys of the clarinet (not that Krakauer has an especially noisy clarinet) and the sound of the bow scraping on the string (not, of course, the same sound as the vibration of the string, which produces the pitch), so much so that one can imagine the dust of rosin flaking off the bow onto one's carpet. Some people might not like that.

Even as late as the 1960s, intonation was generally slipshod - although earlier recordings are progressively worse. (And it's still lax in Europe.) In the Adagio of the Trio in A-minor, the clarinet and the cello play pianissimo a slow descending scale in octaves, and the intonation here is uncanny. Surely no human is capable of producing such perfect pitch, so was this recording digitally enhanced? Quantization? I can't say if it was used or not, but this certainly is perfect. Some people might be suspicious of such perfection.

Another bad habit that developed during the twentieth century (the worst century since the twelfth) is the use of wide and excessive vibrato, and on this recording the performers use about as much vibrato as would've been heard in the time of Brahms. But those who are accustomed to the ghastly vibrato of the 1950s and those who came of age when the Hawaiian guitar and musical saw were popular will perhaps feel that something is missing here.

In the liner notes, New York Philomusica boasts that their recordings "are expected to compete with the best that ever was or ever will be." That's certainly true enough, but since the performers here were all relatively young when the recording was made (1993), old people might become upset and vexed by such temerity.

When all this is considered, it becomes understandable that this recording may not be to everyone's taste - just as many people have no interest in good food and drink."