Brahms’s Double Concerto & Clarinet Quintet

0 of 5 stars

Brahms
Concerto in A minor for violin, cello and orchestra, Op.102Quintet in B minor for Clarinet and Strings, Op.115

Renaud Capuçon (violin) & Gautier Capuçon (cello)

Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester
Myung-Whun Chung

Paul Meyer (clarinet) & Capuçon Quartet [Renaud Capuçon & Aki Saulière (violins), Béatrice Muthelet (viola) & Gautier Capuçon (cello)

Double Concerto recorded 8-10 April 2007 in Grosses Festspielhaus, Salzburg; in Grazer Kongress, Stefaniensaal, Graz; and in the Musikverien, Vienna (sic)
Clarinet Quintet recorded 9 & 10 July 2007 in Eglise du Bon Secours, Paris


Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: November 2007
CD No: VIRGIN CLASSICS
3 95147 2
Duration: 72 minutes

Artistically there are reservations and, productively, even more doubts surface; so it says much for the performances that some sort of engagement remains apparent.

The ragged orchestral first chord of the Double Concerto does not augur well, but, generally, Myung-Whun Chung secures a disciplined and detailed response from the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra that whilst not the most imaginative does have its alluring moments. The cellist’s first entry suggests an image that is rather too outsize – this isn’t a concert-hall balance – but Gautier Capuçon’s rhapsodising and gutsy attack is appealing, so too the marked contrast of mood and character when his brother Renaud enters. But fortissimos can be edgy, the sound hard, and the closeness of the soloists becomes wearing. Therefore lyrical and quieter passages are balm to the ear, but the overall balance of the work is upset. The concerto appears to have been recorded in three different locations over three consecutive days!

Problems with the sound also works against the Quintet. Here the effect can be rather chilly – hardly the ‘autumnal’ that is often applied to this music – and whilst textures are lucid and blends effective the transfer level is too high (as if this were pop music!) and thus dynamics are smoothed out and if the listener turns the volume down (as a person with sensitive ears is bound to do) then the aural image becomes shrunken.

This is a shame, for the performance is a fine one: sensitive, beguiling and wistful, with Paul Meyer proving to be a spontaneous artist and producing a range of tone-colours. His string colleagues are as attentive if not quite as ingrained to the soulful lyricism of the music. It is, though – and putting the production to one side – a performance that commands attention and listeners with a particular regard for this heartfelt piece will find much to captivate.

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