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Phoenix in Flight
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786 1826)
Clarinet Concertino in C minor, op.26 (1811) [10:30]
Giovanni BOTTESINI (1821 1889)
Duetto [9:59]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862 1918)
Premiere Rhapsodie (1910) [9:18]
Carl Maria von WEBER
Clarinet Concerto No.2 in E flat, op.74 (1811) [25:01]
Peter Il'yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 1893)
Herbstlied (arr. Takemitsu) [4:41]
Richard Stoltzman (clarinet); Richard Fredrickson (double bass)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Kirk Trevor
rec. May 2002 (Premiere Rhapsodie and Concerto No.2), May 2003 (Concertino), May 2005 (Duetto) and June 2005 (Herbstlied), Bratislava, Slovakia DDD
Experience Classicsonline

It's so long since I heard Weber's Concertino that I had forgotten just what a delightful miniature it is. And what's more, as a Concertino it doesn't outstay its welcome and it leaves you wanting much more. Stoltzman plays it as if it were a fully blown (no pun intended) Concerto and this makes the music even better for this piece is as fine as any full length work for clarinet and orchestra, such as Weber's own 2nd Concerto. This latter is a more flamboyant work, as befits its Concerto status, and it has much of the opera house to it. The first movement is in the manner of a big aria, with much bravura writing for the soloist, with, on occasion, an almost Rossinian insouciance to it, with a forthright and very exciting orchestral accompaniment Stoltzman relishes this challenge and really takes on the mantle of the prima donna. The slow movement is a delicate serenade to the beloved, it's a beautiful and sustained song with a more impassioned middle section. The finale is a fun thing, as is to be expected. Stoltzman brings the best of his musicianship to this performance, reveling in the intricacies, enjoying the lyricism, making the work even more enjoyable than one would expect or believe it to be.
Bottesini's Duetto for clarinet and double bass is a delightful piece of fluff, in two sections, the first melodic the second more rhythmic. There's no substance to this music whatsoever but it is strangely enjoyable in a virtuoso way where the playing is more interesting than the music. Debussy's Rhapsodie is a fine piece which has, I believe, been unfairly written off as something merely written for examination purposes and thus not really worthy of our attention. Nothing by Debussy can be ignored by us and this small piece is a tantalising glimpse of a mature Concerto which might have been from this endlessly fascinating composer.
The disk ends with the delicate Tchaikovsky Herbstlied, arranged by Takemitsu, and it is a rather odd bed fellow for the rest of the programme for the feel is neither Tchaikovsky nor Takemitsu, rather a mish-mash which sits uneasily in this programme.
This disk has been assembled from several different sessions and thus the juxtaposition of musics is, I presume, more the accident of what was available rather than any forward planning. Whatever the reason it's quite an attractive collection, and even a piece of little consequence, such as the Bottesini, comes out of the programming very well. Stoltzman is, of course, one of the masters of the clarinet and here we hear him weave his magic and, perhaps, slightly let his hair down, in music which might not necessarily be of the front rank but which is well worth our time. He is very well partnered by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra under the intelligent direction of Kirk Trevor. The sound is very good and this is a welcome change from the kind of hot house virtuoso offerings we so often get from the greatest soloists. Well worth a listen.
Bob Briggs


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