[ Harmonia Mundi / CD ]
Release Date: Wednesday 20 March 2013
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Brahms's implacable self-criticism was at its height in the domain of chamber music; he was already forty when he produced his second String Quartet (of three) after two decades of rejected attempts, which only makes the work's formal perfection and intense lyricism all the more striking. In the case of the much-loved Clarinet Quintet, it was a meeting with the clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld that inspired Brahms to emerge from his self-imposed retirement to compose this almost unbearably nostalgic musical testament, completed five years before his death. The acclaimed Jerusalem Quartet is joined by clarinetist Sharon Kam in highly charged performances of these two masterworks of the Romantic.
"The Jerusalem's introverted approach seems more obviously suited to the autumnal hues of the Clarinet Quintet. In a performance once again distinguished by its absolute unanimity of ensemble and masterly textural transparency, a number of passages stand out for their sheer beauty of sound, in particular, the opening and closing sections of the Adagio. These are so mesmerising, they give one the sense that time has almost stood still. Throughout, Sharon Kam takes infinite care to blend her wonderfully mellifluous clarinet line within the string texture, rather than opt for a more soloistic approach. Some might feel that the final climax of the first movement, and the melismatic Hungarian lament in the Adagio, need to be even more highly charged. On the other hand, Kam and the Jerusalems are simply following Brahms's instructions to the letter, holding the dynamic levels in check." (Five Stars BBC Music)