Charles Neidich (concerto) Orpheus Chamber
Orchestra DG 4233772
Charles Neidich (quintet) Mendelssohn
Quartet Musical Heritage Soc. CD 5122258
Benny Goodman, Boston SO and Boston
Quartet RCA LP LSC 2073
Peter Simenauer, Pascal String Quartet
(quintet) Musical Masterpiece Soc. 10"
When I was first getting
to know classical music I asked a friend
who was known to be something of a Mozart
fanatic which recording of the clarinet
concerto I should buy to get to know
the music. "They’re all good,"
he said, going on to explain that nobody
plays this music who doesn’t love it
and can’t play it well. That’s a bit
of an exaggeration, but does hold approximately
true. It’s possible to play it soberly,
precisely, and with dignity; or to play
it with verve, fun, and a little freedom.
Fortunately today most artists play
the concerto using a "basset horn"
with the correct range rather than transposing
the music to fit a clarinet, as was
done routinely in my day.
As to the music performing
itself, it is certainly true that the
scores of Mozart are so perfectly suited
to the instruments and the style that
tempo and timing vary hardly at all
among the various versions. The music
breathes so naturally that one hardly
ever hears a "slow" or "fast"
performance of anything by Mozart. Mr.
Fröst plays with excellent tone,
and great feeling and intelligence.
His technique is gentle and very legato;
he never presses the instrument into
its metallic range. He is capable of
magical pianissimos. His cadenzas have
an odeur of Debussy about them,
but at least there are cadenzas. He
is a very pretty blue-eyed blonde boy
and we gets lots of pictures
of him, colour and B/W, from various
angles. He receives excellent support
from orchestra and quartet and superb
recording from BIS, as we have come
to expect. The Vertavo quartet has more
fun with their part, put more of their
heart into it, than any group I’ve ever
heard play this music.
One looks forward to
musicians with extensive experience
playing jazz performing classical music
with some of the improvisatory verve
and impulsiveness which should inform
authentic music-making of every age.
Unfortunately, Benny Goodman (and, truth
be told, Keith Jarrett) play classical
music stiffly and with overly strict
obeisance to academic tradition. Perhaps
they feel they have something to prove.
I included the Benny Goodman performance
in the list above only because during
most of the late middle 20th Century
it was considered to be the finest version
available; but I never cared for it.
Now we have available on CD restorations
of earlier performances by Goodman which
may be more noteworthy. I have not had
the chance to hear them but they may
be worth looking up.
After everything, I
still prefer the Charles Neidich performances
by the thinnest of margins; they’re
a little less pretty and a little more
dramatic. In spite of dated mono sound,
the Simenauer performance of the quintet
has brilliant and playful moments not
likely ever to be bettered.
Oddly, this hybrid
disk would not play as a CD on the Sony
DVD ROM drive on my computer, but played
fine on the Sony CD-RW drive on the
same computer, and also played fine
on my Emerson CD/MP-3 portable which
on one previous occasion would not play
a hybrid SACD. With various experiments
in formats and copy protection under
way these days, it is wise to test-play
a new disk on any machine you’re likely
ever to want to use before your dealer’s
exchange period expires.
This is real surround
sound, not just some ambience in the
rear speakers. As one would expect the
multi channel SACD setting gives the
best sound, with the two channel SACD
second best. The CD tracks are quite
good and the perspective will open up
nicely on your Dolby surround processor.