Saturday, March 20, 2010

Reginald Kell, Louis Kentner, Anthony Pini play Brahms Trio

I admit that until yesterday afternoon, when I happened upon the 78s at a local thrift store, I did not know this 1941 recording -- of the Brahms Clarinet Trio in A minor, Op. 114 -- existed. If I ever knew I had forgotten, which seems unlikely, given that this is one of my favorite pieces of chamber music, played by some of my very favorite musicians. It is available on CD from the Testament label, but I thought I would try my hand at it from my newly acquired 78rpm discs.

There is no lingering self-pity or cloying sentimentality in this reading, which has something of the stiff upper lip about it. It startled me at first but quickly seemed entirely appropriate to the autumnal character of the score. The days do dwindle down to a precious few; love is sometimes unrequited; but that is, after all, the scheme of things, which goes beyond our personal remorse. A hint of regret is appropriate, maybe some sadness, but the world and life go on and one has to go with it.

The playing, needless to say, is lovely, sweet and nostalgic, and never gloomy. The players here are at the top of their form and the top of their class. The piano part, however, sounded like it was recorded with a microphone under the instrument; it was occasionally muddy, even opaque, but does not seriously distract from the performance in the renovated file. Until re-equalized, the bass of Kentner's lovely pianism was lost in a blurry bass grumble; notes literally disappeared into that sonic fog. About 25 seconds into the first movement the notes played by Kentner's left hand were nothing but a bass blur and could not be distinctly heard. That, at least, has been remedied, even if not to perfection. Perhaps the Testament CD has dealt with it better than I have been able to do -- I have not heard it and cannot say -- but overall the renovated file is quite acceptable even if still a bit bass heavy. I re-equalized as far as I thought was wise; further amelioration seemed to me to make matters worse and adjusting the bass on the player gave better results.

All that having been said, I still recommend this recording highly. The most offending of the sonic deficiencies have been corrected, and I believe the sound file now sounds rather good. Any comments or suggestions on the audio matters would be appreciated. As I said this is music I love by performers I love, so I would like to do the best possible renovation of the file.

I have extracted the zipped files before posting, as a safeguard against the frequent corrupt files showing up on Mediafire. There may still be problems associated with upload or download drops, though, so please let me know.

Link to Clarinet Trio


  1. Kell also recorded the trio with Frank Miller and Mieczyslaw Horszowski, for Decca in 1954.

  2. Thanks for the additional information, Buster. Kell and Horszowski sounds as wonderful as Kell and Kentner, both of those pianists ranking very high on my list of cherished artists. And the later recording you mention is included in the box set of Kell's Complete American Decca recordings. I'll have to get it. In the meantime Mozart's Clarinet Concerto K.622 with Kell and the Zimbler Sinfonietta is up next. I'll be using it to fill out the CD a little.

  3. Larry,

    The latter is the fill-up to the Brahms on the original Decca issue.

  4. It a good pairing, I think. I'll be posting it from a 10" LP -- with just the concerto -- that sports a pretty classy cover, deep blue with gold lettering and a 3x4.5" print attached to the center. (DL 7500).

  5. Nice - the version I have must be a reissue.