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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Clarinet Concerto in A, K. 622 (1791) [29:09]*
Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
Clarinet Concerto (1947-8) [17:01]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Duett-Concertino, AV 147 (1947) [19:51]+
Richard Hosford (clarinet; *basset clarinet)
+Matthew Wilkie (bassoon)
Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Alexander Schneider, Thierry Fischer
rec. Barking Assembly Hall, October 1988 and January 1989
COE RECORDS CD COE 811 [66:19]

The Copland gets the most striking performance here. Hosford's effective rethinking points up the extent to which most other renditions of this score, a relatively recent addition to the repertoire, already conform to a standard interpretive paradigm. 

At the outset, for example, most clarinetists, seduced perhaps by the open, clear textures and harmonies, lapse into a sort of dreamy fuzziness. Hosford, with gentle attacks, places each note of these phrases precisely and rhythmically; the result is more assertive, even plaintive, with the clarinet tone taking on a sharp edge as it climbs above the stave. The violins' wistful poise at 4:23 turns the theme into a French waltz, not inappropriately given the composer's Boulanger training in Paris. As the clarinet writing de-evolves into shorter bursts of notes at 7:03, Hosford inflects each segment so as to lead on to the next - a logical subtlety, but one frequently missed. The passage beginning at 9:16 - which I think of as jazzy, though it's barely syncopated - with strongly marked rhythms, hints at some weight. The phrases at 9:53 and again at 13:04 infuse the basic motor impulse with a waltzy buoyancy. The closing sections are conventional in spirit, but go nonetheless with energy and zest. 

The Mozart is the same performance I reviewed, and enjoyed, as part of an all-Mozart program (COE Records CD COE 814). Revisiting it, I was further impressed by the overall sheen of the orchestral textures, and by Hosford's nuanced shading of the Adagio's long melodic phrases. 

The Duett-Concertino, Strauss's own peculiar take on the sinfonia concertante format, doesn't quite come off here. The opening tempo is misjudged - it flows nicely, but could use more space and serenity - and, in the first two movements, Matthew Wilkie's unduly reticent bassoon throws off the interplay between the two soloists. In the finale, Wilkie achieves a better parity with Hosford, and this movement, at least, sounds cheerful and appealing. 

Thierry Fischer's name appears on COE's booklet and endpaper, but not on the disc itself, nor is there any indication as to which piece(s) he might have conducted. We already know from COE 814 that Schneider conducts the Mozart; on the other hand, that release doesn't indicate the recording venue, here identified as Barking Assembly Hall.

Stephen Francis Vasta


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