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  • Writer's pictureM Osborne

From the Podium – Tutti – April 2021

Updated: Apr 26, 2022

In April’s edition of Tutti John described his own Brahms inspired lockdown project…

When I was in my second year at the Birmingham Conservatoire I moved to a new clarinet teacher, Ted (Edward) Watson, whose arrangements we have played before in the orchestra. As I had hoped, he turned out to be the perfect instructor and motivator for me and although I didn’t know it at the time, his love of Johannes Brahms’ music shaped the way I would see music in the future, making sure I paid equal attention to both the notes, and the music!

We all know something of the brilliant symphonies Brahms wrote but it turns out that in the last few years of Brahms’ life, he discovered the tonal qualities of the clarinet and wrote two clarinet sonatas for the clarinetist Richard Mülhfeld. On listening to them you immediately realise just how involved and important the piano accompaniment is to proceedings, such is the prominence of the keyboard.

Some musicians I know have given themselves ‘lockdown projects’ over the past twelve months and so I set myself the challenge of playing both the clarinet and piano part for the 1st movement of the first sonata. The clarinet part has been on the grade 8 list for most of the last twenty years but the piano part contains challenges that some pianists will not go near.

Having recorded the piano part successfully in August, I only got round to recording the clarinet part in early March, and even then, my second take which I was almost happy with was rudely interrupted by the ‘phone ringing eight bars from the end, forcing me to cut the recording short. So here is the (slightly incomplete) 1st movement of Brahm’s first clarinet sonata, from my lounge in Bournville (a new venue for the gigs list).


Listen to John playing Brahms on the Harborne Orchestra website

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