…Technically Kennedy's playing as represented on this disc is beyond reproach—anyone who can play the finales flying thirds and sixths with such dash and precision plainly knows how to get what he wants out of the instrument. The performance is, as you would expect, highly idiosyncratic, though fortunately there's nothing to match the controversial stylistic excursions of his Four Seasons… Kennedy seems inclined to treat the [first] movement as a kind of colossal accompanied cadenza…
…Another major strong point of this recording is the sound; the German audiophile label MDG outdoes itself here in an old riding stadium that displays the music's serenade-like textures to beautiful effect. Chamber players should absolutely get to know this music. There is nothing in the individual lines that would challenge good student musicians, but they stand to learn a great deal about subtle balance and interaction by playing this music. And they'll give their audiences a pleasant surprise, too.
Brahms’s two sonatas for clarinet and piano, Op 120, composed in 1894, were followed only by the four Serious Songs and a set of organ chorale preludes (some of which may have been written at earlier times). His farewell to chamber music was also his farewell gift to the clarinet. The two works recorded here were preceded by the Clarinet Trio in A minor (Op 114) and the great Clarinet Quintet in B minor (Op 115), and all four masterpieces were inspired by the playing of Richard Mühlfeld, principal clarinettist of the Meiningen Orchestra.
The old model for creating a hit classical recording – big-name soloist plus big-name conductor in major repertory work – is not so common anymore, but this live Brahms recording from the Staatskapelle Berlin under Venezuela's Gustavo Dudamel, with Argentine-Israeli-Palestinian-Spanish pianist Daniel Barenboim as soloist, shows that there's life in the concept yet. One could point to the virtues of pianist and conductor separately: it's a rare septuagenarian who can combine power and clear articulation of detail the way Barenboim does, and Dudamel builds a vast sweep in, especially, the Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15. But it's the way that the two work together that really makes news. Chalk it up to shared South American heritage or to whatever the listener wants, but the way the orchestra and piano define separate spheres and work them together is extraordinary. Again, it is in the Piano Concerto No. 1 and its Beethovenian drama that their mutual understanding is most evident, but there is a sense of great variety powerfully unified throughout.