Bruch's works for clarinet and viola are late works, and slightly more problematic than their relative success would indicate. The concerto for clarinet, viola and orchestra is a staunchly conservative work, written when the composer's style had fallen out of fashion and he was displaying deep resentment of the success of younger composers such as Richard Strauss. It is an introverted work, full of nostalgia and lovely passages, yet it seems to have been written by a composer who had grown weary of his artistic environment and whose inspiration seems to have dried up to a certain extent - yet one who could still trust his experience and skill to carry the day. It is, in the end, a fine work, well worth hearing, but hardly a very inspired one, and not among Bruch's most interesting works (for that I suggest - apart from the famous violin concerto and perhaps surprisingly - turning to his choral or dramatic works). The opening movements are lovely and graceful, though the finale is rather empty.
The eight pieces do not appear to have been intended as a cycle to be performed continuously, and I recommend listening to them one by one rather than in a single sitting. In that case, they are very pleasant, appealing works, and this time around there are some very fine melodic ideas, skillfully developed and full of atmosphere. The Romance for viola and orchestra is somewhat nondescript but appealing enough to be worth a listen. In any case all the music receives very fine performances here; in the concerto the viola comes across as playing a secondary role to the clarinet, but that seems to have been the composer's intention. The sound quality is fine, so all in all this is an appealing (though hardly revelatory) release that can be recommended to anyone looking for a good hour of enjoyable and not too challenging, lyrical romanticism.