Album: Brahms, Clarinet Sonatas Opus 120 – Manasse/Nakamatsu (Harmonia Mundi)

As the 1880s drew to a close, Brahms destroyed a number of manuscripts and announced his decision to retire. Then he heard Richard Muehlfield play.

Half in love with the man he called "Fräulein Klarinette", Brahms wrote some of the sweetest chamber music of his career, including the Clarinet Quintet and Trio and these lovely sonatas.

Pianist Jon Manasse and clarinettist Jon Nakamatsu wisely perform them in reverse order, moving from the flamboyance of the E flat sonata to the more contemplative F minor sonata.

The balance is excellent, the articulation stunning, the performance sympathetic and thoughtful.