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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emma Johnson plays Brahms Clarinet Sonatas, 27 May 2012
This review is from: Brahms Clarinet Sonatas in F minor Op.120 No.1 & E-Flat major Op.120 No.2, Mendelssohn Sonatas in E-Flat major and Robert Schumann Phantasiestücke Op.73 (Audio CD)
This is an excellent recording of the two late Brahms Clarinet Sonatas performed by Emma Johnson, winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year way back in 1984. She is superbly supported throughout by pianist, John Lenehan. in this well engineered and ideally balanced recording, Emma captures the mood of these sonatas faithfully. They are extremely attractive works which highlight the range of colour obtainable on the clarinet. Both sonatas are somewhat sombre in mood but each lightens in the final movements. The Brahms sonatas are coupled by Mendelssohn's early E flat clarinet sonata, written when he was only 15. It is full of memorable tunes typical of Mendelssohn. Again, this is beautifully played by Emma showing real affinity for this wonderful chamber music. Schumann's Fantasiestücke completes this CD. It is a work of song-like beauty, displaying differing moods expertly brought out by Emma's wonderful playing and complemented by John Lenehan's expertise in accompanying the solo instrument thoughtfully, but never forcefully. This is a truly excellent CD, the best I've heard from Emma Johnson for many years. 78+ minutes of chamber music magic. You will not want to be without this recording if you enjoy Brahms chamber music. The Mendelssohn and Schumann pieces are a wonderful add-on. Enjoy!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brahms Clarinet Sonatas, 27 May 2012
This review is from: Brahms Clarinet Sonatas in F minor Op.120 No.1 & E-Flat major Op.120 No.2, Mendelssohn Sonatas in E-Flat major and Robert Schumann Phantasiestücke Op.73 (Audio CD)
This is an exceptionally generous disc at nearly 79 minutes. Both Brahms sonatas are late works contrasted with the Mendelssohn written when he was 15 years old. The accompanying notes, written by Emma Johnson give us a good insight into what was going on in each composer's life at the time the piece was written. The Brahms clarinet sonatas are of course major pieces played beautifully here. The Mendelssohn is full of lovely tunes and is not heard frequently enough. The andante is wonderful.
Both artists give very fine performances and you can't really go wrong with Emma Johnson. This CD is certainly great value and I would get it just for the Mendelssohn alone. A real discovery for me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb set of clarinet sonatas, 22 Jun 2012
By 
Jack L. Honigman (Manchester, U.K.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Brahms Clarinet Sonatas in F minor Op.120 No.1 & E-Flat major Op.120 No.2, Mendelssohn Sonatas in E-Flat major and Robert Schumann Phantasiestücke Op.73 (Audio CD)
The conversation between the instruments in the Brahms sonatas is pure poetry with the contrasting male and female components represented by the piano and clarinet respectively. The composition is remarkably balanced between the two instruments which are played with what surely must be one of the most perfect interpretations of these works.
By contrast, with the Brahms works which were written towards the end of his life, this Mendelssohn sonata appeared when the composer was merely 15 years old and is quite remarkable for that reason alone. The youthful enthusiasm of the writing makes this more of a battle than a marriage and the composer's virtuosity as a pianist tends to favour this instrument of the pairing - so much so that Emma Johnson, in her very useful notes, admits to having added to the ornamentation of her instrument's part to balance the florid passages written for the piano. Nevertheless, a most satisfying outcome.
The inclusion of the Schumann Phantasiestucke Op.73 is a most suitable addition on this CD since this composer praised Mendelssohn as the successor to Mozart as he lauded Brahms as that to Beethoven. It is only fair that they should appear together! While the first two movements of the Schumann have a certain melancholy aspect, the final movement with its variations on a chorale theme enable a happier conclusion to be reached.
Altogether, my recommendation is to buy this CD even if it is the only piece of chamber music you add to your collection this year!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brahms and Johnson in a perfect marriage, 8 Jun 2012
This review is from: Brahms Clarinet Sonatas in F minor Op.120 No.1 & E-Flat major Op.120 No.2, Mendelssohn Sonatas in E-Flat major and Robert Schumann Phantasiestücke Op.73 (Audio CD)
Late in his career Brahms was seduced by the clarinettist of the Meinigen Orchestra, Richard Muhlfeld. Having written a beautiful clarinet quintet and clarinet trio to showcase his talent Brahms went on to write two clarinet sonatas.

Emma Johnson has been at the forefront of her chosen instrument for many years, recording much of the repertoire yet, as she states in relation to these sonatas in her sleeve note,

"I have always felt it is important not to rush into recording them".

Furthermore she adds it is also imperative,

"...judging when to push forward and when to hold back in order to show the musical ideas in the best light"

Indeed, although these are "autumnal" works the players mustn't fall into the trap of being overwhelmed by their beauties, and let the performances become static. She and her partner, John Lenehan, understand this completely, and although this issue has been a long wait for all her admirers, it's one that has been well worth it.

Adding the bonus of the Mendelssohn and Schumann pieces only enhances an already desirable disc. The Wyastone based recording is resonant, but not barn like.

No more comment....go and buy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Late Brahms, young Mendelssohn, and Schumann, for clarinet, 14 May 2012
This review is from: Brahms Clarinet Sonatas in F minor Op.120 No.1 & E-Flat major Op.120 No.2, Mendelssohn Sonatas in E-Flat major and Robert Schumann Phantasiestücke Op.73 (Audio CD)
Emma Johnson first played the Brahms E flat clarinet sonata for me in June 1985 and has since developed and matured most significantly so that, as Nimbus issues this new disc, perhaps to celebrate her birthday in May, we can commend her for not rushing into recording these late Brahms works before now. She and her pianist John Lenehan bring years of significant study and much professional technical proficiency to their performances of these pieces, themselves major examples of the classical clarinet repertoire. Brahms wrote almost nothing after these sunset pieces inspired by his admiration for the playing of clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld,

Emma I greatly preferred in the slower Brahms movements, with louder passages just being ever so slightly bright for my sensitive hearing, though by no means too strident. And John Lenehan's liquid-noted accompaniments were delivered with distinction. A first-class issue, throwing up also, against the 62 year-old Brahms, music by the 15 year-old Mendelssohn in his only sonata for clarinet and piano, causing one to wonder if this delightful work has ever been recorded in its entirety before. In his later life (albeit short enough) this composer was never particularly generous in writing chamber music for wind instruments but here is an example of what might have delighted us if he had done so. The additional pleasure of hearing the Opus 73 Phantasiestücke of Robert Schumann on this disc adds to the total musical experience of almost 79 minutes recording.

The disc, along with excellent programme notes by Emma, both date from early 2011.

A worthy issue
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