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Seen and Heard International Concert Review

Mozart and Tchaikovsky (and Brahms):
Ricardo Morales, Philadelphia Orchestra, Christoph Eschenbach, 27 January (BJ)

One week after Richard Woodhams had covered himself with glory in the Strauss Oboe Concerto, it was the turn of his clarinetist colleague Ricardo Morales to take the spotlight. When Morales’s appointment to the Philadelphia Orchestra’s principal clarinet chair was announced in 2003, I heard the news with delight, because I had heard him, in his previous position with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, provide an absolutely ravishing obbligato for the great scene with Andromache in Berlioz’s The Trojans. His presence in Philadelphia has indeed acted as a tonic, and on Mozart’s 249th birthday he demonstrated again the gifts that make him one of the finest exponents of his instrument now before the public.

The Mozart concerto was performed on a basset clarinet, so that we were enabled to hear the work in a restoration of its original version, with several passages that lie below the range of the modern clarinet. Fairly unusually for a concerto soloist, Morales then took his orchestral seat for the Tchaikovsky Sixth Symphony, which was fervently and lucidly played, and benefited–especially in the curious criss-cross way Tchaikovsky distributed his finale theme between the two violin sections–from Eschenbach’s recent reseating of the orchestra with the seconds on his right. Then, for good measure, with the music director at the piano in one of the stimulating mini-recitals he has added at the end of some orchestral programs, the indefatigable clarinetist returned to play two more pieces, with just as sure a command of style, technique, and expression as he had shown in Mozart and Tchaikovsky. One was a charming Andantino by Florent Schmitt. The other was Brahms’s F-Minor Clarinet Sonata. With its E-flat-Major companion-piece in Opus 120, this was, except for a set of chorale preludes for organ and the Four Serious Songs, the last music Brahms composed, and it provided an appropriate and satisfying conclusion to what has been a fascinating month-exploration of “Late Great Works.”

Bernard Jacobson



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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)