BRAHMS: CLARINET SONATAS 1 & 2, CLARINET TRIO
Hideaki Aomori, Clarinet
Joshua Pierce, Piano
"...beautifully played by clarinetist Hideaki Aomori, cellist Daniel Barrett and pianist Joshua Pierce. Aomori is a seamless clarinet player and the chamber music aspects of these performances (balance, lines subdued to more important lines) are superb. In particular, in these pieces, after important cadences, it is up to the piano to pick up the new phrase; Pierce does it with great acuity and a level of energy that propels the music. All three play with a compelling rhythmic impetus, which does not prevent considerable freewheeling. Top-flight performances."
Turok's Choice, Issue No.217 - January 2010
"...[the Trio] is idiomatic and well-balanced, and sensitive in the Adagio...."
Gramophone - December 2009
"The piano playing is confident and supportive, the intonational decisions always sound right, and the recorded sound is very truthful and clear... The liner-notes (English only) are extensive and informative."
MusicWeb International - December 2009
"The performance is quite exquisite. These are great chamber players and this is great chamber music. The sound is constantly fresh and the poetry of the music is made quite clear and integral. The best way to get to know these works (other than the ideal situation of a live performance, perhaps by the same ensemble) is through a recording such as this... The credit, in the end, for this poetic transcendence from a few players to an infinite invisible orchestra goes to the excellence of the performance. They play not with the music in front of them but with the soul of the music within them. We do not think of glorified musical phrases or systematic tricks but plain and simple poetry. We are given real heart and, as precious and impressionable listeners, we find the experience agreeable."
Thomas Healy, Classical Voice of New England - October 2009
“Aomori plays with a great deal of technical precision; his tone is transparent and projecting without even a hint of airiness.” [ * * * (*) ]
Mike D. Brownell, All Music Guide – May 2009
"The Pierce-Aomori Duo, consisting of pianist Joshua Pierce and clarinetist Hideaki Aomori, give swiftly flowing, beautifully characterized interpretations of Johannes Brahms' Two Sonatas for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 120. At the conclusion of the program they are joined by cellist Daniel Barrett for the composer's Trio in A Minor, Op. 114, making for a highly satisfying end to a program rich in unexpected delights.Since these works were the fruit of a last burst of creativity by Brahms, who had intended to retire from composition until a chance encounter in 1891 with virtuoso clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld, we should expect the clarinet to be the star of the proceedings. And Aomori fills the role to perfection, with his smooth legato, effortless production, and splendid breath control, which includes Brahms' frequent requirement for the type of beautifully swelling tone known as a hemiola. But the close partnership of piano and clarinet needs to be in evidence here as well, and Aomori and Pierce come across as a flawlessly integrated duo.
Sonata No. 1 in F Minor shows the close rapport between the two partners in its demand for a strong rhythmic profile and syncopations shared between instruments. A theme in octaves ending in the remote key of G-flat in the piano in the emotionally charged opening movement, marked Allegro appassionato (You said it, Brahms!) is countered by a series of beautifully shaped phrases in the clarinet, giving us an earnest of further riches to come. The Andante, with its flowing 12-bar theme of deceptive simplicity, makes good on that promise. The scherzo is marked Allegretto grazioso, but my own pet name for it is “Alligator,” for the tricky way the piano's left and right hands and the clarinet are offset, setting up some delicious syncopations. An extroverted, playful rondo in ABACBA form marked Vivace gives both performers ample opportunity to show their stuff.
Sonata No. 2 in E-flat opens with a long, melancholy solo line from the clarinet. The interplay between clarinet and piano is intricate and charming. In this opening movement Pierce and Aomori pay close attention to Brahms' unusually detailed expressive marking amabile, molto dolce sempre and tranquillo. An Allegro appassionato with a contrasted simple melody in the trio section serves as both scherzo and slow movement in this 3-movement sonata. The finale, Andante con moto, is a set of variations calling for lively interplay between the two players.
In the Trio in A Minor for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, the mood is sweetly reflective and elegiac, even a bit nostalgic. The addition of the cello called for three principal themes, instead of two, in the sonata-type exposition. Though the virtuosity of the clarinet is still very much in evidence, there is a lot of room for charming interplay between all three instruments. The Adagio with its long, graceful melody for clarinet and cello is followed by an Andantino in smartly syncopated quarter-notes. The Allegro finale, with its tricky metrical changes from 6/8 to 2/4 in fast sixteenth notes with a brief excursion in 9/8, ends in a spirited dash to the finish. The superb sense of ensemble in this performance is nowhere more evident than here."
Audio Video Club of Atlanta - July 2009
PROGRAM NOTESHideaki Aomori studied with Ayako Oshima at the Juilliard School and has advanced degrees from Queens College (CUNY) and Stony Brook University (SUNY). He has collaborated with a great variety of artists ranging from Sir Roland Hanna, the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, Tito Puente, the Kennedy Center Opera Orchestra, L'Orchestre de Chambre Miniature and many other performing and concert organizations throughout Europe, North America, Asia and Australia.Mr.Aomori has had an ongoing collaboration for a number of years with Joshua Pierce in standard and not-so-standard clarinet and piano literature.
Daniel Barrett has a long history of performance with Joshua Pierce going back to the American Microtonal Festival and Mr. Pierce's long association with John Cage. He has performed for Radio France, the Gulbenkian Festival in Portugal, the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the STX, SEM and Crosstown Ensembles and WQXR, the classical radio station of the New York Times. He has recorded works of Yannis Xenakis for the Mode and Vanderberg labels, for the Irish ensemble Cherish the Ladies on RCA and for public broadcasting (PBS and NPR). As a conductor, he has led the New York Bach Ensemble, the Absolute Ensemble Chamber Players, the Sound Liberation Ensemble, the West Virginia Symphony, the New York Mandolin Orchestra and North/South Consonance.
As one of the finest pianists before the public today, Joshua Pierce is uniquely prepared to perform the chamber music literature having studied with the cellist Bernard Greenhouse (of the Beaux Arts Trio) and the pianist Artur Balsam who was well-known not only as a soloist but also as a chamber musician. Pierce's creative sensitivity and his work as an outstanding soloist in contemporary, romantic and classical music makes him an ideal performer of chamber music. He has a long list of Grammy nominations to his credit along with outstanding reviews from a variety of publications including The New York Times, Gramophone, London Telegraph and Billboard. His extensive career includes solo performances and appearances with orchestras and chamber ensembles all over the world including the Royal Philharmonic, Berlin Radio Symphony, London Symphony, Symphony Orchestra of Russia, Moscow State Philharmonic, Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, Czech National Symphony, Slovak Philharmonic, Luxembourg Philharmonic, Italian Radio (RAI) Orchestra of Rome, Utah Symphony, San Antonio Symphony and, most recently, the Capella Istropolitana in Slovakia. Additionally he has performed with Russia's Leontovich String Quartet, as a member of the New York Empire Trio and many other chamber music organizations. He has recorded nearly 200 works on more than 50 CDs including the complete piano concertos of Beethoven, Brahms, Gershwin and Liszt for MSR Classics, as well as landmark recordings of the works of John Cage, Harry Partch and Charles Ives.