Wolfgang Meyer / Pierre-Henri Xuereb / André De Groote

Brahms: 2 Sonatas Op. 120 for Clarinet and Viola with Piano

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Much like the Franck A major Sonata, which is ardently defended by both violinists and cellists as being their own, the two Brahms sonatas of Op. 120 are claimed by violist and clarinetists as being superior on their respective instruments. In an ostensibly clever plan by the Talent recording label, this two-disc set provides listeners with the Op. 120 sonatas performed by both instruments. Even more interesting is that the pianist stays the same for both clarinet and viola, so theoretically listeners can listen only to the differences between viola and clarinet and decide for themselves which instrument most ideally captures the sound and emotion Brahms wrote into his music. However, such a comparison would only be possible if the two performances were on par, and in this case they're not even close. Clarinetist Wolfgang Meyer's interpretation is a bit stiff and unmoving, but his sound is generally acceptable, intonation is solid, and tempos acceptable. Violist Pierre-Henri Xuereb's performance, conversely, is far from acceptable. His sound quality is abrasive and scratchy, every shift sounds difficult and arduous, and intonation is positively intolerable. Andre de Groote's piano playing is not as consistent between the two performances as one might hope. This is primarily due to the timidity with which he must play when accompanying Xuereb in order for the violist's sound to be heard at all. This set is a prime example of a good idea gone horribly wrong and is one to be avoided.

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