Lawrence Power (viola), Simon Crawford-Phillips (piano), Tim Hugh (cello)
Without the least need to fall back on any ‘viola jokes’, it remains the case that much of repertoire of the ‘by-product of the violin’ is second hand.
Brahms’s most important contribution to the viola repertoire were originally conceived for the clarinet, his masterful creations being inspired by the artistry of Richard Mühlfeld, principal clarinettist in Meiningen during the composer’s close relationship with the city’s orchestra in the last years of the nineteenth century.
The viola’s unique timbre instills a greater sense of intimacy to these wonderful chamber works, where the clarinet is more obviously soloistic, and Brahms’s pioneering treatment of his chamber instruments as equal contributors to a sublime whole makes the possibility of alternative instrumentations all the more reasonable—versions of the Sonatas were also prepared by the composer for violin and piano, while the viola and piano versions recorded here have rightly won for themselves a popular following.
Lawrence Power is rapidly establishing himself as one of the most thrilling young performers around. Acclaimed for his recordings of York Bowen and Cecil Forsyth concertos, he now turns to these cornerstones of the viola repertoire. Brahms’s magnificent craftsmanship and expression of deep feeling are superbly demonstrated by the players in performances of great intimacy.
All of the music on this album is also available as part of the specially priced box set The Complete Brahms Chamber Music: ‘In the last 25 years, Hyperion has managed to persuade some of the finest of chamber musicians to reveal their affection for Brahms in recordings of remarkably consistent quality … altogether life affirming music in life enhancing performances: surely one of the best buys of the year?’ (BBC Music Magazine).