Brahms wrote his two clarinet sonatas near the end of his life and they are often called 'autumnal' music. There is indeed an atmosphere of light slanting through woodland trees here, though perhaps in late summer rather than autumn, as there is no shortage of warmth in these works. However 'autumnal' is often used to describe works in which a composer is looking back and summing up his life's work, whereas here Brahms is looking forward and breaking new ground. These works have a modern edge to them. They are in a similar style to the early 20th century British pastoral composers, for whom Brahms was a major influence. Most obviously they provide the inspiration for Gerald Finzi's popular Clarinet Concerto, which also recieves an excellent performance on Naxos. But there is more to them than that. In the freedom and inventiveness of the lyrical lines given to the clarinet there is something of the character of mid 20th century jazz. Specifically imagine that Miles Davis' 'Kind of Blue' had been produced by a clarinet player. It would have sounded like some of the music here.
The disc is rounded out with three short pieces. A scherzo which was Brahms' contribution to a sonata produced in collaboration with Schumann and Dietrich and two of Brahm's songs arranged for Mezzo Soprano, piano and clarinet. They are of the same high standard.
The playing is excellent as is the sound: these sound like top notch live performances, due in equal measure to the spontanuity of the musicians and the music.