Cellist Brian Thornton is joined by pianist Spencer Myer and clarinetist Afendi Yusuf in a program of chamber music on the Steinway & Sons label.
An impeccable performance of Claude Debussy’s striking Cello Sonata is followed by the lovely Clarinet Trio by Johannes Brahms
For this album on the Steinway & Sons label (STNS 30109), cellist Brian Thornton continues his exploration of great sonatas, this time opening his album with Debussy’s Cello Sonata, which marked the composers first return to chamber music since the String Quartet of 1893. While Debussy was greatly interested in Baroque music, his love for cutting edge musical trends led him to combine many early music elements with harmonies and playing techniques that were modern in his day. One notable example of this can be seen in the second and third movements of the piece, which are played without pause. They feature whimsical mood changes and a variety of special techniques used by the cellist. The last movement alternates between an animated first theme and bursts of dreamy free rhythm sections that juxtapose new and old musical styles.
The second half of the album is devoted to Brahms’ Clarinet Trip, Op. 114. Thornton and Myer, who recorded the composer’s Cello Sonatas for the Steinway label in 2017, are joined here by clarinetist and Thornton’s fellow Cleveland Orchestra member Afendi Yusuf. During a period where Brahms was considering retiring from composition, the revered composer found new inspiration in the clarinet, which he had never used in a chamber work before. In 1891, Brahms met Richard Mühlfeld, principal clarinet in Meiningen, and was immediately entranced. He wrote four major works for the instrument within a short period of time, including the Clarinet Trio featured on this record. According to Peter Laki’s liner notes, the combination of cello, clarinet, and piano in the Clarinet Trio “emphasizes the lower, darker register, which suits the emotional character of the work” and allows each instrument to play off the other in the special way that only Brahms knew how to evoke.
“Cellist Brian Thornton and pianist Spencer Myer are a match made in heaven, each of them playing with the kind of restrained intensity that is required in order to give this music its purest expression.”
“Thornton, it seems, was born for this repertoire, wielding every bit of the depth and sensitivity it requires. Yusuf, meanwhile, delivers a lustrous performance, and Myer is in virtuoso form as both technician and communicator.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“This is partnering in chamber music at its best. Thornton and Myer play as one body, one spirit, and one soul”
“...the star was clarinetist Afendi Yusuf. Such purity and soul is rarely found on this planet.”
“Cellist Brian Thornton explores late chamber works by Debussy and Brahms with creative polish and refined sensitivity... Joined in masterful collaboration by a fellow Cleveland Orchestra member, principal clarinet Afendi Yusuf, and the superb pianist Spencer Myer...”
Debussy: Cello Sonata; Brahms: Clarinet Trio / Thornton, Yusuf, Myer • STNS 30109
Release Date: 03/01/2019
Recorded Direct to the Stereo Master at Clonick Hall Studio, Oberlin Conservatory of Music; Oberlin, Ohio on August 27 - 29, 2018.
Recording Producer: Thomas C. Moore, Five/Four Productions, Ltd.
Recording, Mix, and Mastering Engineer: Michael Bishop, Five/Four Productions, Ltd.
Recording Editor: Thomas C. Moore, Five/Four Productions, Ltd.
Piano: Steinway Model D #464137 (New York)
Recorded and Mastered using Five/Four Productions' REVEAL SDMTM Technology.
Executive Producer: Jon Feidner
Art Direction: Jackie Fugere
Design: Cover to Cover Design, Anilda Carrasquillo
Production Assistant: Renée Oakford
About the Artists
Brian Thornton is a multi-faceted musician who has touched the lives of thousands of people through musical outreach programs around the world and through his performances commemorating his teacher, Lev Aronson. Mr. Thornton began playing the cello in the public school system of Chicago, giving him a passion for teaching young musicians and public school outreach programs. He has traveled from Kolkata, India to Osaka, Japan, influencing young musicians not only to play better cello, but to use music to positively affect the world around them. Mr. Thornton teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) and performs with the Cleveland Orchestra where he has been part of the cello section for twenty-five years. Education is also a focus of Mr. Thornton’s life, and he spends part of his time teaching at CIM, conducting young musicians, as well as traveling to teach in different parts of the world. Modern music is of particular interest to Mr. Thornton, and he has premiered more than a hundred new solo cellos work around the world. Brian Thornton performs on a cello made by Francesco Rugeri in 1695.
Gold Medalist of the 2008 New Orleans International Piano Competition, Spencer Myer has been soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony, the Cape Town and Johannesburg Philharmonics, and Beijing’s China National Symphony Orchestra. His 2005 recital/orchestra tour of South Africa included a performance of the five piano concerti of Beethoven with the Chamber Orchestra of South Africa. In 2004 he captured First Prize in the 10th UNISA International Piano Competition in South Africa, and won the 2006 Christel DeHaan Classical Fellowship from the American Pianists Association. Spencer Myer is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory, the Juilliard School, and Stony Brook University, and is currently a member of the piano and Collaborative Piano faculty of Boston’s Longy School of Music Bard College. Spencer Myer is a Steinway Artist.
Afendi Yusuf joined the Cleveland Orchestra as principal clarinet with the start of the 2017-18 season. Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, he has appeared as guest principal with a number of North American ensembles, including the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Canadian Opera Company, the Toronto and Cincinnati symphony orchestras. Mr. Yusuf holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ontario’s Wilfrid Laurier University, where he was a student of Ross Edwards, and an artist diploma from the Glenn Gould School on Toronto, where he studied with Joaquin Valdepeñas. He also holds a Master of Music degree and Professional Studies certificate from the Colburn School’s Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, where he was a student of Yehuda Gilad. Mr. Yusuf holds the Robert Marcellus Endowed Chair.
About Steinway & Sons label
The STEINWAY & SONS music label produces exceptional albums of solo piano music across all genres. The label — a division of STEINWAY & SONS, maker of the world’s finest pianos — is a perfect vessel for producing the finest quality recordings by some of the most talented pianists in the world.