“There is a strong sense of the Classical sonata developing slowly but surely into the egalitarian duo sonata of the Romantic period in the Brahms clarinet sonatas contained on this disc. That is due in part to the insightful accompaniment skills of the multi-talented Julian Milford as well as Maximiliano Martin’s sweet-toned playing. The last movement of the First Sonata is full of childlike positivity, viewed through the slightly sad nostalgic lens of the older composer: Martin effectively identifies this and firmly characterises his performance as one inescapably of late Brahms. These are, after all, the pieces for which Brahms came out of retirement and which take their place among a whole raft of other new pieces for that clarinettist most revered by Brahms, Richard Muhlfeld.
Given that the score is distinctly lacking in assertive dynamic direction, there is enormous depth in Martín’s interpretation. It can occasionally be very slightly lacking in variety but it is hard to feel that in any way to be a bad thing: Mühlfeld was well known to have a clarinet that made a light, sweet sound and there is a strong sense on this disc that Martín is working with care and precision to live within the means and intentions of the music. The disc also includes the four Fantasy Pieces of Brahms’s older Danish contemporary Niels Gade, which, although not substantial pieces in the same mould as the Brahms, are a set of vignettes that are as beautiful and worth discovering as they are lovingly played by Martín and Milford.”
THE GRAMOPHONE, March 2014.
“Spanish clarinettist Maximiliano Martin, principal clarinet of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, teams up with British pianist Julian Milford for the Brahms sonatas and the rarely played Fantasy Pieces by 19th century Danish composer Niels Gade. Gade followed in the footsteps of his friend and mento Felix Mendelssohn, championing the works of the acknowledged masters and cultivating a conservative romantic idiom. His Fantasy Pieces, Op. 43 (1864) clearly take Robert Schumann’s Opus 73 as inspiration – a brief set that values ambience and impression over form and specificity.
Brahms, by contrast, stretched the possibilities of his conservative romanticism and contributed as much to 20th Century music as Wagner. His innovations in rhythm and thematic economy are as evident in the clarinet sonatas as they are in his symphonies.
Martin and Milford are a great team, playing with superb balance, solid technique, and heartfelt sincerity; and their Brahms sonatas deserve notice in a crowded field… Milford is a first-rate keyboardist with an exceptional command of Brahms. His contrapuntal passages boast equal parts precision, transparency, and feeling; and his lyrical lines paint a vivid picture of an old composer saying farewell to his time and place.”
AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, March 2014.
“There’s a little confessorial note from SCO principal clarinet Maximiliano Martin in the programme book accompanying his new CD, a recording of both of Brahms’s Clarinet Sonatas. In this, Martin admits he always wonders how Richard Muhlfeld played the clarinet. Muhlfeld was the clarinettist whose playing so inspired Brahms that the composer not only pulled back from his planned retirement, but produced the raft of late masterpieces featuring the instrument. I have to say that what Martin wonders about Muhlfeld is exactly the same as many of us wonder about Spanish clarinettist Maxi, as he is known: how does he produce that liquid, endlessly mellifluous tone? Hear it yourself in this beautiful performance of the two clarinet sonatas, with Martin and pianist Julian Milford sounding seamlessly in accord. And the Fantasy Pieces by Niels Gade, a real discovery for me, are lovely little gems.”
GLASGOW HERALD, 29 September 2013.