Brighton Year-Round 2020
Philip Edwards and David Elwin, gave a clarinet and piano recital of Edward German’s Song Without Words, Dorothee Eberhardt’s Neon and Brahms’ Clarinet Sonata No. 2 in E flat, Op 120/2.
Philip Edwards and David Elwin, gave a clarinet and piano recital of three pieces: Edward German’s Song Without Words, Dorothee Eberhardt’s Neon and Brahms’ Clarinet Sonata No. 2 in E flat, Op 120/2.
Living from 1862-1936 and hugely popular, German’s only now undergoing a revival. His mellifluous latish Romantic Song Without Words – originally for violin and piano – from 1898 is infused with a little Mendelssohn as the title suggests. More though it’s a small gem of his own distinctive melodic gift, often devoted to theatre music and comic operas like Merrie England. He also wrote symphonies and instrumental music. His French-inflected English style is out of the world of his exact contemporary Delius, 19 days his senior, or the older Elgar. He’s more a 19th century composer though than Delius or another contemporary, Debussy.
It’s a piece worth hearing again and hopefully Edwards might play other transcriptions since none are currently played. His technique is sovereign and Elwin conjures a warmly supportive counterpoint.
Dorothee Eberhardt’s Neon couldn’t be more different. UK-based till recently, when she returned to Munich, Eberhardt’s a revelation. Her 2012 piece starts off with broken chords and breath techniques out of contemporary German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952) then with a kind of rhythmic pulse and mid-century expressionist power, truly compelling If pressed I’d say it resembles Karl Amadeus Hartman (1905-643) who banned his own music from being played during the Nazi era. Eberhardt’s power here is unmistakable, memorable and a revelation. The end conjures flickers of yet another composer, and a trumpet parallel: the ill-starred Bernd Alois Zimmerman and his Nobody knows de trouble I see with its tragic jazz-inflections. Edwards’ technique here is on another level, and it’s thrilling interpretation of thrilling music – and Elwin’s playing too. Eberhardt’s music should be better-known in the UK where she lived for several years.
It had to end with a classic after that, and Brahms’ Clarinet Sonata No. 2 in E flat, Op 120/2 from 1894 is a cornerstone, more relaxed seeming than its F minor companion. Inspired by Richard Muelfeldt Brahms came out of retirement in 1892 and wrote four clarinet works 20 piano pieces and less well-known 11 organ preludes as well as Four Serious Songs.
Edwards take the mellifluous relaxed opening Allegro amabile, in E♭ major, in 4/4 time to expressive edges and an aplomb that touches the heart of this apparently genial work, darkening in the scherzo sections of the Allegro appassionato, in E fat minor, a terrific speed through troubled light though somehow always retaining its autumnal wistfulness, and not the tragedy this really dark key often affords; well, most of the time.
The genially driven power of the seemingly relaxed finale releases those initial energies in a classically-rooted satisfaction. There’s a whoop to the work and Edwards’ clarinet. This Andante con moto — Allegro is back in E flat major in galumphing earthy 6/8 time. Rather patronisingly it might be referred to as the peasant-dance signature tune, though its implications are far more powerful as are the dances. Again Elwin reins in with properly Brahmsian textures on the piano.
This is Wigmore Hall class playing, and it’d be thrilling to have Edwards and Elwin back.