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.
Bohemian composer Leopold Kozeluch earned himself a negative historical reputation by putting himself forth as a rival to Haydn and Mozart; badmouthing the former to the latter, he received the retort that "even if you were to put the two of us together, you would still not produce a Haydn!" German clarinetist Dieter Klöcker, an indefatigable investigator of the context that surrounded the mighty Viennese trinity, sets out here to rescue Kozeluch from obscurity with performances of a trio of highly idiomatic clarinet pieces. It's hard to disagree with a newspaper critic of the day, quoted in Klöcker's excellent notes, who wrote that Kozeluch showed "great imaginative boldness" but too often offered "mere copies of ordinary life" that were "prettily dressed up like a young woman trying to please her admirers by means of flowers and ribbons."
No timbral difference separates this midprice reissue of one of the best-loved concertos by Mozart from its previous, full-priced equivalent. There's a bit more ambience and warmth and less stridency on top. If you own the original CD, there's no need to replace it, but first-time buyers should snap up these sensitive, stylish performances in their Great Recordings of the Century guise. One of the main attractions is the extended compass and deliciously "woody" tone of Sabine Meyer's basset clarinet. The clarinetist's fleet, effortless dispatch of the Clarinet Concerto's outer movements is a delight to the ear, and her improvised (or so they seem!) flourishes fit into their environment as if Mozart had written them himself.