Brahms Clarinet Sonatas/Niels Gade Fantasy Pieces CD
“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
‘Francis Poulenc: Complete Chamber Works’ CD
Rumbustious and playful, Francis Poulenc is deemed a lesser figure among the greats of 20th-century music but it’s a mistake to underestimate him. His work is no mere froth; there’s a smoky, autumnal sadness to his harmonic writing, a lingering regret beneath the joie de vivre, particularly in the intimacy of his chamber music. The London Conchord Ensemble understand this completely, working their magic in the bittersweet sonatas for piano and cello, violin, flute, oboe and clarinet, and romping through ensemble works large and small, including his Elégie for horn and piano (written in memory of Dennis Brain) and the irrepressibly gorgeous trio for piano, oboe and bassoon.
Stephen Pritchard, The Observer, 19 February 2012
It’s as a chamber composer that Poulenc seems likely to remain most present, because (like his fellow sonataist Hindemith) he wrote so much and judged its usefulness so adroitly. Clarinettists, flautists and oboists invariably get round to his sole sonata for their instrument, as do violinists and cellists, but odd college groupings are admirably served: there’s an early Sonata for Horn, Trumpet and Trombone, a fine Sextet for piano and winds, not to mention a usefully perky Sonata for Two Clarinets. No longueurs on these excellent discs: Poulenc’s invention is always sprightly, and the performers are vivified by it; though an outstanding item is the Elégie for Horn and Piano, in memory of Dennis Brain. PD
The Sunday Times, 25 April 2012
The chamber music of Poulenc is rather neglected, partly because of the unusual combinations of instruments he often favoured. The London Conchord Ensemble is the perfect group to champion it, and they reveal some treasures, especially in the wind music. The Sextet of 1932 is particularly attractive, while the Sonata for Horn, Trumpet and Trombone recalls Poulenc’s enchantingly jaunty music for Les Biches.
Paul Gent, The Daily Telegraph, 10 March 2012
All Poulenc’s chamber works from the London supergroup
Anybody who has tackled Poulenc’s chamber music will know that it is fun and rewarding to play. Anybody who has not tackled it will be able to appreciate the element of enjoyment inherent in the music from the way that these instrumentalists perform it. This is an excellent, spirited two-CD set encompassing 14 works for various combinations, including those fine late sonatas for flute, oboe and clarinet, where Poulenc’s typical blend of languid lyricism, piquantly perfumed harmony and snook-cocking humour achieved a perfect synthesis. A factor that comes across clearly here is that Poulenc had a more or less infallible ear for tapping into the timbre and personality of different instruments…
The London Conchord Ensemble manifestly relish what Poulenc has to offer, playing with panache, wit and discreet sensitivity in performances that are a constant joy.
Geoffrey Norris, Gramophone Magazine, June 2012
Bach Flute Works recording
I am entranced by the Bach of Daniel Pailthorpe et al., but there is only so much that I can say to help you understand just what has cast such a spell. The playing is easy. There is vibrato. Their style is not the period performance practice that our editor despises. It is all just right.
To hear Pailthorpe and Milford caress their way through scales and sixths in the opening movement of the Sonata in B minor is a delight. When the playing gets soft, the music never turns dry, as Bach sometimes can. I am amazed at how sonorous and connected Milford can be at the piano without anything sounding wrong. At the end of the first movement they make a big ritard. It sounds inevitable and satisfying. The Presto concludes with a gay jaunt at the turn to 12/16 meter that has me imagine Bach bopping his head along approvingly.
The Vivace that opens the Sonata in A finds more punctuated piano playing than in the preceding piece. The first movement was incomplete; this is the completion by Alfred Durr. The Largo is not so slow; it seems odd that Bach gave such a slow indication for a piece written with so much motion. The movement still offers plenty of respite from what it comes between.
Pailthorpe’s sound is close up and vibrant in the Partita for solo flute, with just a little electricity that doesn’t disappear from the sound no matter how soft he gets. Even the very last notes in spots that are usually tossed off have life to them. I don’t like a few of the breaths, but I’m willing to excuse anything to be able to listen to this.
In the Suite in B minor the London Conchord Ensemble sounds like a rich ensemble, but with plenty of clarity where imitation occurs. The warmth of the string sound had me fondly recalling a performance of this piece by the English Chamber Orchestra. In fact, it is a string quintet playing. The flute is a part of the texture, and I practically melted at 1:10 in the Rondeau. In fact, the flute practically melts its way through the music—consider the central section of the Polonaise. What can I say? Sometimes it gets this good.
Thank you, Daniel, Julian, and London Conchord members, for restoring my faith in humanity. When I need it again, I shall return to this…with tissues just in case.
© 2012 American Record Guide
Library of Congress Concert, Washington D.C., 8 April 2011
The London Conchord Ensemble earned its name in a performance of Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds at a Library of Congress recital Friday.
Concord, in its more traditional spelling, was the salient feature of its reading, with the four wind players dovetailing their phrasing and employing limpid, often creamy, tone. Not for them the piquant wheeze of period-style performance: This was playing that took full advantage of their modern instruments’ cultured finish.
Thanks to pianist Julian Milford’s sprightly manner and crisply accented approach, Mozart’s score emerged with a well-projected shape, never merely wallowing in all that luscious sound. The greater assertiveness and more Romantic style of Beethoven’s otherwise quite similar Quintet for Piano and Winds drew a subtly more robust response from these musicians (with Milford again digging enthusiastically into the piano writing). And in Frank Bridge’s Divertimento for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon, the winds – without losing their luminous sound – took on the kind of acerbic, highly individualized character called for by the terse and enigmatic dialogues Bridge has given to these instruments.
Flutist Daniel Pailthorpe had a fine showcase in Poulenc’s popular Flute Sonata. With playing of airy tone and puckish phrasing, he captured both the other-worldly loveliness of the slow movement and the scampering energy of the finale. Milford’s keyboard work possessed all the elegance and vibrancy the piece demands.
Joe Banno, Washington Post, 11 April 2011
Loeffler recording, re-released by Champs Hill Records in the autumn of 2010
The London Conchord Ensemble with guest baritone William Dazeley have given us and absolutely delicious hour of chamber music in these finely honed performances … This is one of the most engaging recordings I have come across this year, and the Pierne sonata and the Loeffler Rhapsody are well worth the price of admission. The London Conchord members are first rate throughout. There is really next to nothing at fault in any of the performances. This is certainly one of the finest recordings to pass across my desk this year.
Kevin Sutton, Musicweb International, December 2010 (The CD was their recording of the month)
‘St Petersburg’ CD
This disc unearths some real rarities, which the Conchord Ensemble plays with an aplomb, sensibility and purposefulness that suggest a genuine enthusiasm rather than mere disinterment for the sake of being different. .. *****
The Daily Telegraph, 1 May 2010 (The CD was chosen as their disc of the week.)
.. highly entertaining … played with style and verve by the London Conchord Ensemble… a rare treat ..
The Observer, 25 April 2010
‘Ludwig Thuille Chamber Works’ recording
This double-disc set brought both a record label and a composer new to my ears. Thuille, who lived until 1907, was from the Tyrol and a close friend on and off of Richard Strauss…..
All four of these chamber works are absolutely gorgeous, full of lovely melody and an almost ecstatic beauty. ….The performances on both CDs are first rate, as are the sonics. This is one of the most enjoyable chamber music collections I have heard in years.
John Sunier, Audiophile June 2010
‘Bach Concertos’ recording
… enjoyable performances … animated and clean-lined, and with a finely controlled sound from Pailthorpe as solo flute .. attractively played with Emily Pailthorpe as the fine soloist … a fresh bright approach … horn soloist in (Brandenburg Concerto) No 2 is a delightful idea and it works very well here with Nicholas Korth as a nimble soloist.
International Record Review, January 2007
the refreshing sound of the London Conchord Ensemble…
Classic FM Magazine, January 2007
Sumptuously engineered and glowingly played, this recital disc simply oozes class…. Maya Koch and Julian Milford really have their fingers on the pulse, … tantalisingly infusing this glorious music with about as much warmth and interpretative vim as it can take without losing its neo-Classical poise… playing with an elegance and natural warmth that is delectable…Milhaud’s Le Boeuf sur le toit … is also fiendishly difficult …, yet Koch and Milford hardly seem to notice, so infectious are their fine-honed musical responses. Bravo!
Julian Haylock, The Strad, April 2007 (Strad Selection of the Month)
‘Loeffler, Pierné, Duruflé’ recording
The ensemble clicks perfectly, the playing seemingly effortless and a regard for precision never stifling the musicians natural feeling for life and breath. All very enjoyable.
BBC Music Magazine, February 2003