Brahms: Clarinet Quintet & Sonatas; Piano Quintet / Manno, Perl et al.

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"If you love Brahms...or the clarinet, I shamelessly tout this collection without reservation. I consider this album 'very highly recommended.' If you are new to Brahms’s chamber music, this is a quick way to get right on it." -Ilya Oblomov

While playing Brahms’s clarinet sonatas for clarinet and piano, there is no hiding; and I hear [Manno's] masked, yet suggestively mournful, techniques in a more pronounced manner. Sonatas 1 and 2 (op. 120, 1894) were among Brahms’s final compositions. Manno plays the sonatas with a sad, dreamy, wistful quality. [Compared to others,] the Manno version is more “inside the cranium” of dear Brahms, a self-described “melancholic,” and tenderly resigned to his fate.

This Oehms Classics 2009 reading of Ralph Manno’s clarinet and Alfredo Perl’s piano opens new doors for me to the autumnal Brahms clarinet sonatas, together with their reading of the elegiac Brahms Clarinet Quintet (op. 115). These readings are the most sensitive interpretations of these pieces I’ve yet heard: less lugubrious than Kell, a tad more thoughtful than Spaendonck, a smidgeon less shrill than Cohler, and nice to have in one Brahms collection, a two-CD album mostly of the clarinet music. Serious collectors, take note!

The sometimes low-profile approach to the early Brahms Piano Quintet (op. 34) is in contra-distinction to the usually bloated Beethovenesque aggression so frequently presented. I’m not saying it’s too obviously slow. More precisely I mean it leans toward understatement in an extremely thoughtful way, and without slowing the progress to a crawl. It is a piece that dates back to Brahms as a student, and it has something of Beethoven’s swagger, played with Brahms’s sense of restraint. That is not to say that Brahms lacked for self-assertion; as we know, he seemed also to have a feel for choral works such as Ein Deutches Requiem, his “Lullaby,” and other delicacies. Brahms’s restraint is on display, at least in those moments where other groups go over the top for the big effect, and we can see how Alfredo Perl’s playing in the Piano Quintet often moves toward low-balling, or toward whatever is the opposite of over the top.

This release supports my sense that these are really strong readings where less is more.

-- Fanfare

Product Description:

  • Release Date: July 28, 2009

  • Catalog Number: OC 110

  • UPC: 812864018288

  • Label: Oehms Classics

  • Number of Discs: 2

  • Period: Romantic

  • Composer: Johannes Brahms

  • Performer: Rahel Cunz, Michaela Paetsch-Neftel, Hartmut Rohde, Ralph Manno, Guido Schiefen, Alfredo Perl


  1. Clarinet Quintet in B Minor, Op. 115

    Composer: Johannes Brahms

    Performer: Ralph Manno, Michaela Paetsch-Neftel, Rahel Cunz, Hartmut Rohde, Guido Schiefen

  2. Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34

    Composer: Johannes Brahms

    Performer: Alfredo Perl, Ralph Manno, Michaela Paetsch-Neftel, Rahel Cunz, Hartmut Rohde, Guido Schiefen

  3. Clarinet Sonata No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 120, No. 1

    Composer: Johannes Brahms

    Performer: Ralph Manno, Alfredo Perl

  4. Clarinet Sonata No. 2 in E-Flat Major, Op. 120, No. 2

    Composer: Johannes Brahms

    Performer: Ralph Manno, Alfredo Perl