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MP3 Valery Gorokholinsky and The New Russian Quartet - Brahms and Reger Clarinet Quintets

Two most exquisite Clarinet Quintets of late romantic period which were both written at the end of careers of their creators. Both pieces are great treats for true chamber music lovers.

8 MP3 Songs in this album (71:44) !
Related styles: CLASSICAL: Chamber Music, CLASSICAL: Brahms

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The two clarinet quintets, featured in the present recording, are similar not only in the choice of instruments, but also in many circumstances of their composition.

The B minor Quintet op. 115 was composed by Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) during the summer of 1891. It opened the last period of the composer''s creative biography, which could be described as "life after life". Just before his visit to Meiningen in March of 1891, Brahms decided to cease writing music, feeling himself "too old" and preferring "to live quietly and not to have troubles in old age". However, the elderly composer changed his mind after the specially organized recital of the outstanding clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld (1856–1907), the star of the famous Meiningen court orchestra. Brahms wrote to Clara Schumann immediately after that performance: "You cannot even imagine such a clarinetist… He is the best woodwind player I have ever met". The fruit of that impression ripened during the summer of 1891; they were "the twins" (as the composer himself called them): Clarinet Trio op. 114 and Clarinet Quintet op. 115. Later Brahms composed also two Clarinet Sonatas op. 120.
The Quintet became the first of Brahms'' "sunset" works, full of light sorrow and nostalgia for unrealized and lost hopes. Its four movements are closest in mood and psychological approach to his Piano Intermezzi op. 116–119, a veritable garland of which appeared immediately it. The mood of farewell remembrances, characteristic of the intermezzi, in the Quintet is expressed first of all through Brahms’ use of the B minor tonality, connected as it is in the European tradition simultaneously with elegiacal feeling and tragic suffering. The timbre of the clarinet, distinguished by its great contrasts of dynamic range and registral contrasts becomes a kind of “calling card” for this work, transparent as it is in texture and filled with soft and gentle phrases and sections. Descending contours of the most of melodic motifs based on romantic "sighs", repeated sections of movements, and hidden, latent dance rhythms create an atmosphere infused with the unhurried, thoughtful depth of the composer’s thoughts. Then, the harmonious roundness of the Quintet appears as the symbol of its main idea: movement within a circle, and an inevitable return after each attempt to overstep the limits. This is the wisdom of the philosopher, who each time tries to call into existential law, though he knows that everything repeats and everything passes.
The first movement, Allegro, is a concise introduction to the work. Brahms uses here a handful of masterly contrapuntal and instrumental methods, which do not arrest attention at all, because they are completely transformed into flowing melodic lines. The dramatic Allegro is succeeded by lucid lyrical Adagio in B major. Its themes remind of well-known traditions of musical genres. The opening theme is associated with a lullaby; its melody performed by clarinet is soaring above skillful inter-knitting of accompanying string parts. The second theme is a sophisticated waltz; short dancing motifs of cello and viola support the vast melodic line of the clarinet. The middle section of the second movement is the quasi-improvised recitative of clarinet; its nervous and anxious mood is emphasized with strings tremolo. This rather large B minor recitative is the dramatic heart of the quintet, a very personal statement of the author. The main theme of D major Andantino is featured by the deceptive simplicity of "folk themes", which Brahms usually preferred to include into final movements of his chamber opuses. The second theme of the Andantino (B minor) is quite different. It is light and swift, like fantastic themes by Mendelssohn. The Finale is cast in the form of variations, which is an allusion to the Finale of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet (KV 581). Brahms variations are arranged as a chain of fine, sublime stylizations. Several phrases from the coda of the first movement are repeated at the last bars of the Finale to explain the message of the whole piece: the game is over; ravishing wandering, lyrical recollections, intellectual investigations have come to the end. The Quintet had its premiere some months after being completed. Richard Mühlfeld (clarinet), Johannes Brahms himself (piano), Joseph Joachim (first violin) and Robert Hausman (cello) – all-Europe celebrities – performed it in Berlin on December 12 of 1891. The work was approved both by the audience and critics. Among the audience, there was the celebrated Berlin painter and illustrator Adolf Menzel, who immediately became both Brahms'' and Mühlfeld''s admirer and then their friend. Just after the performance, he drew Mühlfeld playing the clarinet as the muse Euterpa and wrote at the foot of the page: "Only Euterpe herself could have piped in such a way…"

The A major Clarinet Quintet op. 146 was the last completed work by Maximilian Reger (1873–1916), composed in 1915, less than one year before his death. Being a constant admirer of Brahms'' music and in a sense his successor as the conductor of Meiningen court orchestra, Reger concluded his creative activity with a chamber work which reminds one of the afore-mentioned work of Brahms. Reger’s Quintet is much closer to “pure” or “absolute” music than that of Brahms (indeed, Reger, throughout his life was an active apologist of “absolute music”). His creative method is based on the use of skill and knowledge rather than on God given intuition. Like his contemporary, the Russian composer Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev (1856–1915), Reger liked and knew how to write “after a model”, and like Taneyev, he urged both audiences and researchers to discover sense in music most importantly in its development of musical motifs, themes, and harmonies. Thus, Reger takes Brahms’ sublime chamber style as a model and develops it in a “scientific” way. The “plot” of A major Quintet consists of nuances of pure musical development. So this music sounds romantic, however, according to the composer''s aesthetic view it belongs to the “antiromantic” instrumental style of the XXth century. The present recording of the A major Quintet is the Russian premiere. This work is not often performed because it is intended for an intellectual audience; to appreciate the hidden shades of meaning, one must have extensive musical knowledge and understanding. For instance, the significance of Reger’s A major tonality will not be apparent unless one already knows that that is the tonality of Mozart’s Quintet. The complex lineage from Mozart to Brahms to Reger, Reger purposefully underlines with his inclusion of ed amabile in the tempo/character marking of the first movement: this marking Brahms used in his E flat Clarinet Sonata (Allegro amabile). These subtle associations, evidently, inform the musical language of the first movement. Moderato ed amabile in this movement may be translated as “moderately and courteously” or, more simply, as “comme il faut” (following the principles of good taste). The lyrical, positive, and “covered” character of both main themes of the first movement sonata-allegro “force” the composer to bring out any expected dramatic contrast only in the realms of dynamics and articulation. The unhurried, well-balanced introductory movement is followed by an impetuous Vivace. This elegantly constructed movement appears as a collection of fresh timbre, texture, colour and rhythmic details and nuances. The main theme of the first section (B minor) with its humorously interrupting rhythmical figures and "leaping" exclamations of string instruments is succeeded by a deceptively simple quasi-pastoral clarinet melody (G major). However, this is, as in the music of Brahms, only a “reminiscence” of genre and style – the singing clarinet theme is too active, too fast to be pastoral, and, moreover, it is not allowed even one moment of calm, first by mischievous figures and then by questioning phrases of the strings. The third movement, Largo, at first seems to be like the Adagio from the Quintet by Brahms due to its transparent texture, slow tempo, triple time rhythm, sharp keys (B major for Brahms and E major for Reger), and the latent dance character of its main theme which is accompanied by wavy ostinato figures. This calm music is soon interrupted by an unexpected dramatic "shock". As in Brahms’ Quintet, the middle of the slow movement becomes the most emotional part of the whole work. The Finale, Theme and Variations, is also modeled on the Quintets of Mozart and Brahms. Their Finales (with a theme and four variations), however, remain chamber works in proportion, character, and style. Reger’s movement (a theme and eight variations) clearly breaks free from the constraints of chamber music to become symphonic in conception. A vast instrumental and registral diapason, brilliant and virtuosic instrumental writing, head-spinning complicated voice leading, saturated polyphonic textures, and an ambition to make use of the maximum number of methods of thematic development characterizes this music. It could well be that this is its true message.
The circumstances surrounding the creation of the A major Quintet and the names of the musicians to whom Reger intended it are still unknown. The Quintet remains for musicians, critics and audience a “thing in itself” – harmonically, proportionally, and psychologically well-balanced. The last work of a master, which in the course of almost a century is still trying to gain “life after life” – an adequate perception, interpretation, and comprehension.

Svetlana Petukhova, translated by Anna Bulycheva & Charles Neidich

VALERY GOROKHOLINSKY (clarinet) was born in 1960 in Ukraine. In 1973 Valery moved to Moscow in order to continue his education at the Central Music School. In 1978 he entered the Moscow State Conservatory, class of world famous clarinetist V. Petrov. In 1983 Mr. Gorokholinsky graduated from the Moscow Conservatory and at the same year won the first prize in the All-Union Competition for woodwind instruments. Since that time, Valery Gorokholinsky worked as the principal clarinetist of Ministry of Culture Orchestra under the baton of Gennady Rozhdestvensky, then as the principal clarinetist of Russian National Orchestra under the baton of Mikhail Pletnev, he also performed under the baton of Zubin Mehta, Maris Jansons, Maxim Shostakovich and Vladimir Pon''kin. Valery has been actively promoting the solo and chamber music written for clarinet. His performances include Mozart Concerto on the festival in Austria with the Wiener Chamber Orchestra “Simfonietta”, Moscow performances of K. Stamitz Concert No. 4 for clarinet and violin with orchestra, Hoffmeister Concerto for clarinet and bassoon with orchestra, Mozart’s Concertante for oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn with orchestra, Rossini’s Introduction, Theme and Variations, Weber’s Concertino for clarinet with orchestra, Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsodie for clarinet with orchestra. His chamber repertoire includes works by Bartok, Berg, Bernstein, Beethoven, Brahms, Bruch, d''Indy, Glinka, Khachaturian, Lachner, Martinu, Mendelssohn, Milhaud, Muczynski, Prokofiev, Poulenc, Saint-Saens, Stravinsky, Spohr, Schumann, Schubert, Zemlinski. He made Russian premieres of Trio for piano, clarinet and cello by Louise Farrenc, Quintet for clarinet and strings by Jean Francaix, Theme and Variations for clarinet with orchestra by Paul Hindemith. Since 1995, Valery Gorokholinsky performs only as a solo and chamber player. He is a member of the trio “Opus 11” and his other collaborations include appearances with such artists as National Artist of Russia Vladimir Ivanov (violin), Valery Popov (bassoon), Mikhail Utkin (cello) and Marina Gorokholinskaya (piano). Valery Gorokholinsky has recorded music by Brahms, Bruch, Debussy and Schumann on “Classical Records” label.


Julia Igonina, Violin I
Elena Kharitonova, Violin II
Alexander Galkovsky, Viola
Alexey Steblev, Violoncello

“Magic sounding, perfection of phrasing, free and exciting performance…” “The Moscow Times”
These words fairly describe the musicians who have devoted many years to the art of quartet playing and who have broad experiences in the field of ensemble performance, namely the musicians of the “New Russian Quartet”. The name of the ensembles means that the musicians remain faithful to the great Russian performing tradition and at the same time conquest the new peaks of chamber music. This ensemble has brightly showcased the musicians’ skills. They have played in collaboration with such prominent musicians such as Jessie Norman, Siegfried Palm, Vladimir Spivakov, Edward Brunner, Dan Thai Shon, Alexander Rudin, Daniel Kramer, Nikolay Petrov, Yuri Bashmet. The New Russian Quartet performs in Russia’s best concert halls and participates in festivals throughout Europe and Asia. Musical friendship connects the New Russian Quartet and outstanding musician Shlomo Minz. Their concerts in Italy in a season of 2008 were met by a storm of applause and enthusiastic reviews. This interesting union of the New Russian Quartet and Maestro Shlomo Minz where the famous violinist represents himself as the viola player will have continuation in a season of 2009–2010, where musicians will perform Brahms, Mendelssohn, Bruckner and all Mozart’s string quintets. The New Russian quartet has performed in Asolo chamber music festival, Festival Delle Nazione in Citta di Castello, Tikhon Khrennikov Festival in Russia, European music festival in Bulgaria and other. The Italian press called The New Russian Quartet one of the best ensembles of Russia. The creative range of a quartet reaches from the Viennese classics up to very contemporary music and jazz compositions, naturally includes the masterpieces of Russian composers. Musicians of the quartet perform on unique Italian instruments from the Russian State’s collection.
“…Musicians manage to transfer the mysterious spirit peculiar to music of late Brahms. Singularity of this performance full of sounds simultaneously powerful and soft, as velvet, in aspiration to step over border of chamber music and to enter the virtual symphonic measurement…” “La Gazzetta di Reggio Emilia”
“…Deep penetration into each piece performed, amazingly beautiful sounding, the highest professionalism, these are the integral qualities of The New Russian quartet.” Dmitriy Shebalin, violist of the Borodin String Quartet
“…Every performance amazes with depth of interpretation, carefulness to the smallest details and rare skill to achieve harmony of the form. It is possible only when each of participants of the quartet is an outstanding master.” Andrey Eshpay, Russian composer
“…An alloy of the refined taste, depth and genuine sincerity in execution.” “Culture”

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