ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
JOHANNES BRAHMS - Clarinet Quintet


JOHANNES BRAHMS - Clarinet Quintet, Op. 115 - String Quartet in A minor - Sharon Kam (Clarinet) - Jerusalem Quartet - 3149020215227 - Released: April 2013 - Harmonia Mundi 902152

One very clear and strong indication of an unusually good performance of a piece of music, is when the musicians and their instruments melt away into the fabric of the music, and in doing so, become the music. And when the musicians lose themselves within the music, so can you. Your listening experience is not distracted by showmanship, and you can therefore focus on the work at hand. After all, it is the main attraction of any recording that takes itself seriously. It shouldn't be "who" performs what, but rather "what" is performed by who. A case in point is this new recording of the Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115 by Johannes Brahms performed by clarinetist Sharon Kam and the Jerusalem Quartet. The musicians here are so attuned to and "inside" the music, that you forget the fact that you are listening to a clarinet and four string instruments. Their phrasing and shaping of the long musical lines is natural and relaxed, always at the service of the musical narrative. And Sharon Kam's impeccable control of the clarinet results in a constantly mellow and lyrical sound throughout, be they high, midrange or low notes. Of course it helps when what they are playing is a masterpiece from late in the composer's life, when Brahms had fully mastered the art and science of composition, and could dive right into the musical discourse, without the need to introduce his ideas via a harmonic buildup, thematic introduction, or the usual academic gestures. And what a beautiful musical discourse it is. Full of nostalgic touches, autumnal colors, and free flowing ideas that coalesce seamlessly from start to finish. This is a piece of music that glows from within and comes to life with every audition, offered here in a recording and performance to match.

Jean-Yves Duperron - April 2013