The clarinet sonatas and trio here were composed near the end of Brahms' life. He "retired" from composing in 1890, but then heard the superb clarinettist Richard Muhlfeld and was inspired to write these. I have treasured this wonderful recording since I first heard it 30 years ago. A while ago I remastered an old LP and I'm thrilled to see it here as a downloadable mp3.
There is a fine Richard Stoltzman/Richard Goode recording too, but this is the one that I think best captures the deep autumnal beauty of the sonatas.
The warmth and generous rubato in this recording make the Stoltzman/Goode recording sound a little stodgy, a little wooden. There's wonderful interplay between a youthful, ebullient Barenboim and De Peyer, who plays with wonderful restraint -- the piano crashing chords while the clarinet floats ethereally above it.
There is one place where Barenboim, at the time one of the world's great pianists, completely blows a chord. I suppose they left it on the record because the take was so beautifully phrased, if not note-perfect. It's the musical equivalent of a beauty mark on this wonderful recording.
Some people are put off by De Peyer's French technique -- the sound is a little more reedy, thinner and more focused than the darker sound that is more in vogue. It's a relatively subtle difference. The significance of this recording is the lush yet delicate phrasing, which should be an inspiration to anyone who wants to play romantic chamber music.