This is a richly rewarding programme, beautifully played and recorded. Brahms’s Clarinet Trio has fared somewhat disappointingly in the popularity stakes when compared with the mellifluous tunefulness of the Quintet. Whereas in the latter, Brahms indulges his lyrical instincts with a Mozartian naturalness, in the Trio one senses him trying to reign them in – any other composer who had come up with a melodic line as ravishing as that announced by the piano towards the end of the first movement’s exposition (2’21” on this recording; the cello announces it in the recapitulation) would have understandably run and run with it; Brahms gives it 13 seconds!. It is not difficult to see how Webern’s temporal concision was arrived at when you experience music under such awesome compression as this. A glorious work, given a glowingly affectionate and engagingly natural performance.
Beethoven’s Op. 11 may not be amongst his most profound early works, but played with such irrestistible delight as this – Emily Segal throws off Beethoven’s little indulgences in pianistic frivolity with infectious grace and charm – it’s difficult to keep one’s finger off the ‘replay’ button. The delightful theme and variations finale dances along uncontainably, and it’s entirely due to these talented young players’ credit that they never allow the general bonhomie to descend to mere archness or self-regard.
The post-Webern harmonic idiom of Hugh Wood’s Op.40 Trio may prove a stumbling-block for many listeners, although gesturally speaking the work’s emotional logic is deeply satisfying, its contrapuntal behaviour unmistakably Brahmsian in inspiration and its alluring sound-world utterly captivating. As Wood explains in his notes, ‘the finale is a slow movement intended as a memorial to two friends who died in 1997’, and here Segal and twins John and Adrian Bradbury (clarinet and cello respectively) really come into their own with a heart-rending intensity that held this listener spellbound