Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, completed
in 1948, written for and dedicated to Benny Goodman, is quite deservedly
one of his most popular works and has often been recorded. It is too
well-known to need any particular comment, but suffice it to say that
it is – by far – the finest piece in this collection.
Bernstein originally wrote his Prelude, Fugue
and Riffs for Woody Herman’s band that disbanded before performing
it. The piece was reworked for its inclusion in Wonderful Town
but was eventually dropped from it. Some time later Bernstein conducted
the first performance with Benny Goodman to whom the piece was then
dedicated. Bernstein at his most extrovert, jazzy mood.
Morton Gould often used popular material in his many
orchestral works that are often tinged by jazz. Derivations for
Clarinet and Band (1955, revised ten years later) is no exception.
Like the Bernstein piece, it blends classical form and jazz in a brilliant
Artie Shaw’s Clarinet Concerto was written
in 1940 for the film Second Chorus. Light stuff indeed but hugely
The Gershwin arrangements are all based on well-known
and celebrated tunes, and includes, besides the ubiquitous Summertime,
the lovely The Man I Love, that very song that impressed
John Ireland so much ("That man beats the whole of us" is
what Ireland confided to his friend John Longmire).
American Classics? Well, not quite though Copland’s
concerto undoubtedly is a classic; but a hugely entertaining collection
of jazz-inflected works, brightly recorded and magnificently played.