This program features the horn and clarinet in music that with
the exception of the two Nielsen works is not at all that familiar
- at least not to me.
The Czech hornist Radek Baborāk is one of two principal
horns with the Berlin Philharmonic. The Austrian clarinetist
Wenzel Fuchs has also been a member of the orchestra since 1993.
The Baborāk Ensemble has been active since 2001, though
this is the first time I have heard them.
The music on this disc is for the most part in a light vein and
the selections are all rather short, not to say insubstantial.
The disc’s centerpiece is the music Koechlin composed for
the soundtrack of a film, Les Confidences d’un Jouer
that was never produced. It was based on a
novella by Erckmann and Chatrian. The story concerned a disappointed
love affair and musical friendship, and the score, originally
intended for small orchestra, was completed and published in
1981 by the composer’s biographer, Pierre Renaudin. It
consists of 18 very brief movements, 14 of which feature horn
and/or clarinet and which are recorded on this disc. While the
music lasts more than 23 minutes, the longest movement is under
3 minutes! Some are for solo clarinet and others for clarinet
and horn duet; there even four movements for hunting horns and
one for clarinet, viola and cello. The most enjoyable, and substantial,
in my opinion are the six movements scored for clarinet and horn
duet. Baborāk and Fuchs perform these with ease and warmth
that belies any technical difficulties. The appearances of the
hunting horns are suitably raucous, if ultimately forgettable.
Preceding the Koechlin are Martinů’s Serenade
Nielsen’s Serenata in vano
; following Koechlin are
Nielsen’s Canto serioso
Quartet for clarinet, horn, cello and Side Drum. The disc ends
with an encore, Luciano Berio’s Musica Leggera
The Nielsen works are probably the most familiar music on the
disc. The Serenata in vano
is a minor masterpiece and
receives a fluent performance here. Baborāk’s tone
is very mellow and his use of vibrato is typically Eastern European.
Fuchs balances well with his warm sound and supple playing, as
he also does in the other works. I really liked this account
of the Serenata
, even if a Nordic one such as that by
the Bergen Wind Quintet or that by the New London Chamber Ensemble
I reviewed here recently have more idiomatic bite and tartness. Canto
, as presented here in an arrangement, is not so successful.
More is not necessarily better, and the additional instruments
detract from rather than enhance the original for horn and piano.
That said, it receives a fine enough performance. It’s
hard to imagine better performances, on the other hand, of the
two Martinů works. Both are delightful, even if neither
is in the class of the composer’s best music, such as his
concertos. The Quartet with its accompanying side-drum is deliciously
quirky. And, the Berio encore is icing on the cake.
This program is varied enough in its repertoire, albeit out of
the mainstream, to appeal to a wider audience than one at first
might imagine. Certainly fans of horn and clarinet playing should
hear it. The recorded sound is excellent, with plenty of natural
presence, but not in-your-face closeness. The booklet notes by
Jaromír Havlík are more than adequate, even if
they read like translations from the Czech, which they obviously