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Clarinet Sonata in E Flat Major Op.120 No.2

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Sonata in E flat for Clarinet and Piano, Opus 120, No.2

1. Allegro amabile
2. Allegro appassionato
3. Andante con moto - Allegro

Like Mozart, Brahms composed some especially rich and beautiful music for the clarinet in his last years. He had been thinking of retiring when in 1891 a new friendship with the clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld (1856-1907) persuaded him to continue composing a while longer. That summer Brahms wrote the Clarinet Trio and Clarinet Quintet for his friend, and in 1894 he added the two Clarinet Sonatas, these four works being his last chamber music.

The Second Sonata begins with a smooth and mellow Allegro amabile (the qualifying Italian adjective means amiable) built of closely-integrated lyrical themes. The more vigorous and passionate second movement has some of the attributes of a scherzo, although it is not as light as that might suggest. It is cast in ternary form with a broad sostenuto middle section full of mellifluous thirds and sixths. The last movement is a set of variations combining the functions of slow movement and finale.

© Eric Mason

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