Brahms’s two sonatas for clarinet and piano, Op 120, composed in 1894, were followed only by the four Serious Songs and a set of organ chorale preludes (some of which may have been written at earlier times). His farewell to chamber music was also his farewell gift to the clarinet. The two works recorded here were preceded by the Clarinet Trio in A minor (Op 114) and the great Clarinet Quintet in B minor (Op 115), and all four masterpieces were inspired by the playing of Richard Mühlfeld, principal clarinettist of the Meiningen Orchestra.
While they are popular with clarinetists and some fans of early Romantic music, the three clarinet concertos by Bernhard Henrik Crusell have yet to achieve widespread acclaim outside this small circle of devotees. Conservative in style, predictable in form, and rather limited in expression, Crusell's extant concertos are engaging showpieces for virtuosos, with an agreeable blend of flashy techniques in the Allegros and pretty lyricism in the slow movements, but little more than that.