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Brahms: Clarinet Trio; Cello Sonatas Nos. 1 and 2 / Ian Brown (piano), Paul Watkins (cello), Michael Collins (clarinet)

Notes & Reviews:

MusicWeb International, 14th October 2014
This is one of those rare discs that surprises as much as it delights... There are many great performances of these sonatas, but I cannot recall a set of such flexibility and nuance or of such generous interplay between equals. Watkins and Brown take their time. Nothing is rushed. Everything is expressive.

Gramophone Magazine, September 2014
By stretching and releasing phrases without corrupting the basic pulse, lightening or darkening notes without damaging timbres, Collins shares with his colleagues an individual impulse to the music...A penetrating interpretation.

Sunday Times, 20th July 2014
The late sonata's expansive mood and grand sonorities have made it the more popular of the two - it was a favourite of Casals. Yet the melancholy early work doesn't deserve its comparative neglect. Nor does the Clarinet Trio, as this expressive performance by three of Britain's finest musicians reminds us.

American Record Guide, November/December 2014
The all-Brahms program is highly satisfying. It begins with Sonata 1, a sad and serious work in E minor where the middle movement is a minuet, not a slow movement, and the finale a passionate Bach-infested fugue. This is followed by the Clarinet Trio. This prepares us for the Op. 99 Sonata in F that makes up for the sadness of the previous works. The playing is thoughtful and intense. This is effective. Musically these are moving readings. The interpretations are very effective otherwise, and one might well invest in it for the sake of a moving program of Brahms.

Performing Brahms's cello sonatas and Clarinet Trio, Paul Watkins here presents three enduring masterpieces of the chamber music repertoire. He is joined by two musicians of the highest calibre, the pianist Ian Brown, his established duo partner, and the clarinettist Michael Collins.

The Telegraph, 17th July 2014
Collins, Watkins and Brown play as a proper, instinctive ensemble, well tailored in phrasing, unanimous in their attack and architectural finesse, and mellifluous in their shaping of Brahms's melodic and harmonic richness.


Acceptable chamber music from Collins, Watkins, and Brown
This recording consists of Brahm’s Cello Sonatas No’s 1 and 2, bookending his well known Clarinet Trio. Cello Sonata No 1 (Op. 38) begins the disc, and Mr. Watkins cello playing is warm and expressive, particularly in the second movement. Ian Brown’s piano accompanies, but it seems somehow disconnected – it is played well, but there doesn’t seem to be the synergy between the two instrumentalists that would really make this piece stand out.

The Clarinet Trio (Op. 114), fares much better, as the second movement really brings out the best amidst the performers, each feeding off the other and working together to bring just the right emotional undertone to the listener. This is perfect music to listen to on a rainy evening, and Mr. Collins clarinet is wonderful tonic after a long week. The third movement is similarly satisfying, the interplay between the soloists seeming effortless and sensitive.

Cello Sonata No. 2 is much the same as the first. It is well played, but there is an emotional component that is missing, which is a real shame because this particular sonata is incredibly moving when all of the musical elements come together. But it falls inexplicably short in a difficult to quantify way.

This CD was a bit of a mixed bag for me. The recording quality is wonderful, and the several pages of liner notes are informative. But (and perhaps I am being too picky here, having heard incredible Brahms performed 8 feet in front of me) with the exception of the Clarinet Trio there is something lacking. Had I not heard better in person, I would have been very pleased with this recording – as it is, it is acceptable but not heart-stopping.
Submitted on 09/01/14 by KlingonOpera 
These are somewhat cool readings of these Brahms masterworks. Messrs. Watkins, Collins and Brown stress the contemplative, lyrical aspects of the composer’s writing. Nothing is forced or hyperbolic. While this is a perfectly valid approach, those seeking more drama and momentum may want to look elsewhere. Nonetheless, the collective artistry displayed here offsets any perceived shortcomings as does the natural Chandos engineering. The liner notes are particularly well done.
Submitted on 10/17/14 by Allen Cohen 
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