The album includes Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet, one of the most seminal works for the instrument – combined with Hungarian dances and waltzes by Brahms, all newly arranged to include additional material from Brahms' original musical sources, with an authentic folk twist.
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.
Brahms (1833-97) devoted much of the 1880s to his three Piano Trios, having decided, as he told a friend, that there was “no further point in attempting an opera or a marriage”. They are among his less familiar chamber works. He originally wrote No 1 as a young man, overhauling it more than three decades later in 1889. All three works – the B major Op 8, C major Op 87 and C minor Op 101 – have a tender, shadowy intensity, without quite the same heart-on-sleeve fervour of the bigger chamber works. The string players here – brother and sister Christian and Tanja Tetzlaff – are regular quartet partners. Together with sensitive pianism from Lars Vogt, ensemble is alert, accurate, never forced: already a favourite CD.
A glance at the Wikipedia entry for the 24-year-old clarinetist Andreas Ottensamer makes you rub your eyes. He has attained a remarkable curriculum vitae, beginning with his appointment as principal clarinetist of the Berlin Phil. and his acceptance at Harvard. His father and older brother are both principal clarinetists with the Vienna Phil. (the family is from upper Austria). Why should such a fantastic tale stop there? Andreas has also won competition first prizes on cello and piano, and he is the first clarinetist to be signed as an exclusive DG artist. One wonders if he glows in the dark.
Ivan Fischer's version of these ever-popular classics is as valid an essay in stylistic restoration as the most scholarly period-instrument performance of Bach or Handel… The transcriptions have been reworked and in one or two movements an improvised cimbalom part has been added, played by a well-known Hungarian musician, Kalman Balogh. Not a record for purists perhaps, but I found the results invigorating and thought-provoking.- S.J. Gramophone, March 1987.
I haven't enjoyed a set of performances of the Hungarian Dances so much since I played them with the local youth orchestra at the age of 14. In a way, Ivan Fischer's version of these ever-popular classics is as valid an essay in stylistic restoration as the most scholarly period-instrument performance of Bach or Handel. - S.J. Gramophone, March 1987.