Jean-Xavier Lefèvre was a Swiss-born French clarinetist, composer and teacher, who started out as a teenager in the band of the French Guards, which during the revolution became the French National Guard. Lefèvre teached at the Paris Conservatoire which opened in the wake of the French Revolution. He wrote a clarinet method in 1802 which includes a set of twelve clarinet sonatas. The sonatas reflect popular French style of the time.
In the 19th century short instrumental pieces were often called ‘romances’. Usually these are lyrical miniatures with melodious tunes. In Schumanns Op.94 romances the composer made a point of writing simple, uncomplicated music. Some listeners coming to this music for the first time might be surprised that compositions so clearly out of the realm of virtuosity could achieve such a high level of art.
Clarinet Sonata, Op. 120, Nos. 2 (composed in 1894) stem from a period in Brahms’s life where he “discovered” the beauty of the sound and color of the clarinet. The form of the clarinet sonata was largely undeveloped until after the completion of these sonata, after which the combination of clarinet and piano was more readily used in composers’ new works. These were the last chamber piece Brahms wrote before his death and are considered two of the great masterpiece in the clarinet repertoire.