Brahms had already announced his "retirement“ from composition when in the spring of 1894 he played chamber music with the cellist Robert Hausmann and the clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld. This encounter apparently renewed his enthusiasm for Mühlfeld’s much admired playing and inspired him to write two clarinet sonatas in the summer of the same year. Brahms and Mühlfeld premiered the works and played them in several performances until the sonatas op. 120 were first published in June of 1895. They remain pivotal works in the clarinet’s recital repertoire establishing the clarinet sonata as a distinct and viable chamber music genre.
An important part of this edition is the extensive preface. Firstly it informs about the sonatas‘ origins, their compositional process, pre-publication performances, their publication history as well as early reception. Truly remarkable is the unique Performance Practice Commentary. Here the editors start from the premise that already a few decades after Brahms' death, a widening gulf developed between the composer's expectations and the performance practices of the early 20th century. On the basis of manifold sources which include memoirs by pupils and chamber music partners, treatises and essays, early instructive editions and historical recordings, the editors deal with key issues in understanding Brahms' notation. By a section-by-section analysis of rhythm and timing, dynamics and accentuation, dots and strokes, slurring and non legato, piano pedalling and overholding, piano arpeggiation and dislocation, clarinet vibrato and portamento, the editors provide an indispensable assistance for a historically informed interpretation of the work. At the same time, the edition offers an exciting and often surprising insight into musical interpretation of the German Romantic Era in general.
A pioneering Urtext edition
With an extensive Performance Practice Commentary
For further information on Romantic performance practice we recommend the text booklet: “Performance Practices in Johannes Brahms‘ Chamber Music”, BA 9600