Pianist Yuja Wang, clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer and cellist Gautier Capuçon have earned a reputation as a “super-trio”, having given performances worldwide that reveal the instinctive, almost telepathic bond of musical communication that exists between the three players. Their first album for Deutsche Grammophon, set for release on 2 September 2022 digitally and on CD, documents that extraordinary rapport. Capturing the energy and intensity of sessions held at the Konzerthaus Dortmund in 2021, Works by Sergei Rachmaninoff & Johannes Brahms includes visionary interpretations of Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata Op. 19, Brahms’s Cello Sonata No.1 Op. 38 and the same composer’s Trio for piano, clarinet and cello Op. 114.
Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata is one of the milestones of late-Romantic chamber music. Completed in November 1901, it marked the end of the composer’s process of recovery from the breakdown he had suffered following the disastrous premiere of his First Symphony. The experience helped shape the huge emotional range and sense of triumph over adversity of a sonata that makes equally high demands on both players, raising the piano from the status of accompanist to that of soloist.
Ideal interpreters of this music, Yuja Wang and Gautier Capuçon convey every dramatic twist and turn of its score, from the darkness and despair of the opening movement to the joyful ecstasy of the finale. “The dialogue Rachmaninoff creates in his Cello Sonata is very special,” comments Yuja Wang. “It felt as if his spirit was inspiring us during our sessions in Dortmund.”
“We were equally inspired by the spirit of Brahms in two of his most profound works, and by Andreas’s magical playing in the Clarinet Trio,” she adds. “It’s such a joy to feel this sense of freedom and communication and to be able to share it with our listeners.”
Brahms was in his late 20s when he cultivated his distinct musical language with a series of chamber compositions. His first published duo, the Cello Sonata in E minor shows his mastery of form and invention. The work, which began life in 1862 but remained unfinished for three years, reflects the composer’s close study of J.S. Bach’s music, clearly so in its finale’s fugal writing. It also projects the cello’s warm, lyrical voice across three movements packed with strong themes and rich harmonies.
By contrast, the Clarinet Trio is a late work, written in the summer of 1891. Directly inspired by the playing of Richard Mühlfeld, the virtuosic principal clarinettist of the famous Meiningen court orchestra, it embraces the melancholy mood of an ageing composer who was considering retiring from public life and contemplating his own mortality.
“It’s a big challenge to record a masterpiece like the Brahms Trio – and the only way I wanted to do this was with my close friends Yuja and Gautier”, notes Andreas Ottensamer. “Being on stage with them feels so natural!”
For his part, Gautier Capuçon praises his two musical collaborators and their pursuit of deep meaning in the chosen repertoire. “Everything flowed with such ease with this recording,” he comments. “And there was an electricity in the air that is so rare and so beautiful.”
In preparation for their DG recording sessions, Yuja Wang, Andreas Ottensamer and Gautier Capuçon performed the album’s programme at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Kurhaus Wiesbaden, La Grange au Lac, Konzerthaus Dortmund and Tonhalle Düsseldorf. Summing up their performance of the Brahms Clarinet Trio, the Rheinische Post (Düsseldorf) said, “it doesn’t get any better than this”, calling the three artists “ideal casting”.