Brahms's clarinet sonatas have never lacked for recordings, and each of the versions listed above has its own enjoyable qualities. For most collectors, choice will probably continue to reside between Thea King (Hyperion) and Gervase de Peyer (Chandos). However, the only exactly equivalent record here is that by Michael Collins and Mikhail Pletnev (Virgin Classics), who added to the sonatas a splendidly exuberant performance of Weber's Grand duo concertant. The young French clarinettist Paul Meyer gives gentler and in many ways more graceful performances of Brahms's sonatas than any of the others. If this robs him of something of the urgency of de Peyer, or the strength and warmth of King, it does give him access to the music's elegance and its occasional sense of melancholy. He is beautifully partnered by Francois-Rene Duchable, who has the sensitivity of touch and also the closeness to his partner to solve many of the problems that Brahms sets his players: in both first movements, for example, there are difficulties of texture that need tactful handling by the players themselves, for all the artistry of the recording engineers.
The clinching choice, as far as comparison with Collins and Pletnev is concerned, comes with Weber's piece. It is, of course, not a sonata, but a work for two virtuosos, close to each other in musical sympathies and in the witty relish of tech- nical hazards. The unanimity here is not merely technical, though the quick detail of the players' phrasing, the exact matching of their trills, the precise balancing of sharply contrasted gestures, are all exemplary. They seem further inside music of bravado, of wit, of sadness, of a brilliant feeling for instrumental drama, than any others I can remember. There was a lot of French music that went into Weber's make-up; two Frenchmen as skilled and intelligent as Meyer and Duchable can make one feel it more than ever.'