Darwin-born clarinetist Lloyd Van’t Hoff is busy making a name for himself, both as a soloist and as a founding member of the ensemble Arcadia Winds. As part of Musica Viva’s Inaugural FutureMakers program the group toured China and Australia, commissioned several new works and developed a show for schoolchildren.
Having seen Arcadia work their magic at Musica Viva’s 2017 festival, it was immediately apparent that in Van’t Hoff we have someone special, and this is borne out by his lovely Brahms album with versatile Melbourne pianist and composer Peter De Jager. Alongside the two clarinet sonatas, composed at the end of his life, the duo has added to the mix some paprika-spiced Hungarian Dances, three gentle songs and, in a nice touch by way of a farewell lullaby for and from the old man, Wiegenlied.
It’s part of musical folklore how Brahms came out of composing retirement in 1891 when he heard clarinetist Richard Muhlfeld play. These lovely sonatas are often described as “autumnal”, but I prefer Vant’ Hoff’s description: “His is the most companionable music”. These young musicians do them great justice – one almost imagines a grandfather dancing with his grand-daughter in the Allegro grazioso from the F Minor Op. 120 No 1, and the unhurried counterpoint and variations of the enchanting final movement of the E Flat Major Sonata resonate in the mind well after it is finished.
Van’t Hoff and De Jager have put a lot of themselves into this exceptional disc while staying true to Brahms’ undimmed vision.
Works: Clarinet Sonatas
Performers: Lloyd Van’t Hoff cl, Peter De Jager p