Notes and Editorial Reviews
On this disc it is not so much the wind instrument's song that captures your ear as the rich textural variety of the piano writing—and this, of course, thanks to Ashkenazy's super-sensitive tonal colouring as well as inexhaustible vitality of every kind.
All music-lovers know well that inspiration for Brahms's two clarinet sonatas came from the playing of Richard Muhlfeld, principal clarinettist of the Meiningen Court Orchestra, just at a moment in later life when Brahms might otherwise have laid down his pen. But on this disc it is not so much the wind instrument's song that captures your ear as the rich textural variety of the piano writing—and this, of course, thanks to Ashkenazy's super-sensitive tonal colouring as
well as inexhaustible vitality of every kind. Without sacrifice of strength there is always a translucency of keyboard sound, ensuring that no detail of craftsmanly cunning is ever obscured, or equally no note from his partner, with whom he has already recorded this composer's Clarinet Trio. When reviewing that disc in February 1991, CH referred to the ''thoughtful'' Franklin Cohen. The epithet is just as apt and respect-worthy here. But I would willingly have sacrificed a little of the 'thought' for more immediacy and intensity of reaction, for a more compelling urge to communicate his own responses to this music. Ensemble between the two players cannot be faulted in matters of timing and balance. Yet in temperament I felt that whereas for Ashkenazy Brahms, at heart, remains the vulnerable romantic of earlier days, for Cohen he is the mid-nineteenth-century's middle-aged upholder of classical purity and restraint, of avoidance of all untoward extremes including dynamic contrast.
Schumann's three Fantasiestucke of 1849 make lesser demands: they date from his brief recourse to miniatures, in politically disturbed times, between loftier projects. But I think even these pieces would have benefited from more personal inflexion of phrasing from Cohen, and not least in rather stronger leanings on first-beat heart-tugs to squeeze out the nostalgia underlying all three. Playing-time is not over-generous, but full marks to Decca's recording engineers for quality of sound.
-- Joan Chissell, Gramophone [10/1993]
Works on This Recording
Phantasiestücke (3) for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 73 by Robert Schumann
Vladimir Ashkenazy (Piano),
Franklin Cohen (Clarinet)
Written: 1849; Germany
Date of Recording: 03/1990
Venue: Masonic Auditorium, Cleveland
Length: 9 Minutes 52 Secs.
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