Gramophone Editors Choice
Jeffrey Khaner, principal flautist of the Philadelphia Orchestra since 1990, is one of today’s most distinguished orchestral musicians. He is also a commanding soloist. This recording, his fourth solo CD for Avie, demonstrates his skills as an arranger as well, as he turns his attention to Brahms’ beloved Sonatas originally written for clarinet, later transcribed for viola by the composer. Khaner’s endeavours mirror Brahms’ own aims: to ensure wider dissemination of the music by adapting it to different instruments. The ingenious fillers are Khaner’s transcriptions of a pair of Three Romances, a set each by Robert and Schumann, Clara, close friends of Brahms’. These unabashedly romantic works lend themselves perfectly to the flute and to Jeff’s masterful interpretations.
“With the poignant flute solo in the middle of the passacaglia finale of the Fourth Symphony among the most tenderly reflective passages in all Brahms, it is sad that he did not write any work specifically for the flute. That, no doubt among other considerations, was what led Jeffrey Khaner, the distinguished principal flute of the Philadelphia Orchestra, to make his transcriptions of the two Brahms clarinet sonatas.
As one would expect, his alterations to the solo parts are discreet, involving occasional octave transpositions upwards and, more rarely, downwards.
In many of the changes it seems that Khaner has been concerned not so much whether the flute can actually play Brahms's written notes but what is more effective on the lighter instrument.
Naturally the replacement of the clarinet by the flute brings a marked change of character.
While these late chamber works in their clarinet versions – or in the viola alternatives which the composer himself suggested – have an autumnal quality, the freshness of flute tone brings more of a spring-like feeling. Khaner also demonstrates that though flute tone in its lightness is fresher and brighter than clarinet tone, it is also generally gentler, with such passages as the running quavers in the finale of the First Sonata made more delicate. Yet sensitive as Khaner's arrangements are, it is hard to imagine many people actually preferring these flute versions to the originals: they simply make a splendid showpiece for an outstanding flautist.
Much the same can be said of the Romances by Robert and Schumann, Clara, though there is a stronger case for flute transcriptions of Robert's pieces: he suggested the violin or clarinet as an alternative to the oboe which he originally had in mind. The charming Clara pieces were written specifically for violin but again Khaner's transcriptions could not be more sensitive, nor the playing more inspired. In all these works he is greatly helped by the brilliant, warmly understanding accompaniment of Charles Abramovic.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide