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Fröst and Friends
see end of review for details
Martin Fröst (clarinet) other performers listed below
rec. December 2009, Nybrokajen 11, Stockholm
BIS BISSACD1823 [64:04]

Experience Classicsonline


A wonderful sense of sheer delight permeates every minute of this richly enjoyable disc. It comes from the tonal beauty and sheer joyful facility of Martin Fröst’s playing; from the impressive musicality of everything that goes on in the changing groupings of friends involved on the disc; in the fact that they are all friends, a sense of intimate - but far from lazy - familiarity evident in all the musical relationships to be heard here. Of none is that truer than of the partnership of Martin Fröst and Roland Pöntinen. Though Fröst’s clarinet is, given the nature of the music, necessarily the dominant voice in the music that he and Pöntinen play together, it would be quite wrong to speak of Pöntinen merely as an accompanist. The interplay of the two is so complete, their pleasure in one another’s musical company so obvious that this feels like musical symbiosis, not simply soloist and accompanist. The opening transcription from Scriabin, full of slow melodic playing (from both) of great beauty, was written, Fröst’s entertaining booklet notes tell us, before the two were fully-fledged professional musicians. Like much else on the disc it is, in the highest sense, ‘amateur’ music-making, done, in other words, out of love rather than for mere income.
 
There isn’t a dull track on the disc, listening to which is, at times, like being present at a particularly happy musical party. So, for example, Let’s Be Happy is thoroughly infectious, especially in its movement from its melancholic opening to its later companionable secular ecstasy of sociability. In The Flight of the Bumble Bee’ the contribution of mezzo Malena Ernman is joyously interwoven with clarinet and piano in quasi-mesmeric fashion, rich in eccentricity, humour and virtuosity. Again, delightful! The Czardas - which in his booklet notes Fröst relates to memories of his parents’ parties - starts calmly enough but grows increasingly exhilarated (and exhilarating) to close with a good - and carefully controlled - impression of musical inebriety. Henryson’s Off Pist is full of skittering motions and motoric patterns, Abrupt changes of direction, jazz inflections, Swedish folk elements - an exciting miniature packed with surprises.
 
But there is tenderness and lyrical beauty too. The Brahms and Schumann pieces are true ‘songs without words, Dein Angesicht a model of restrained, unpompous dignity; the Chopin Nocturne luxuriates in emotional expressiveness without ever seeming merely self-indulgent.
 
Some of the unfamiliar or unexpected items also fare very well. Smile is relatively slight, but Chaplin’s music is played with respect and some surprising depths are revealed in this perceptive arrangement. Fröst’s own Improvisation - which will interest admirers of Malcolm Arnold - is full of tenebrous imaginings at its opening, evolving through complex runs and leaps, some of them bluesy in phrasing. The whole is self-evidently the work of a clarinettist who has a full and mature understanding of the technical and aural possibilities of his instrument. This is music played out of a lifetime’s experience.
 
The same might be said for the disc as a whole - but it is a lifetime in which the performer’s experience, far from wearying him, has sustained - and perhaps even increased - his joy in what he does. It is that joy which characterises all the performances here. Played on my ipod this recital has sustained me through more than one potentially irritating delay on the trains; played at home it has attracted admiring comments from more than just myself.
 
Glyn Pursglove 

Track listing
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915), arr. Pöntinen, M. Fröst
Prelude in B major, Op.16, No.1 [3:03] a
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) / Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Ave Maria [2:32] b
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Presto, from Sonata for solo violin in G minor, BWV 1001 [3:15]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Wie Melodien zieht es mir, Op.105 No.1 [2:02] a
TRADITIONAL , arr. Göran Fröst
Let’s Be Happy [3:23] c
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908), arr. Pöntinen, M. Fröst, M. Ernman
The Flight of the Bumble Bee [1:07] d
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962), arr. Pöntinen, M. Fröst
Liebeslied [3:41] a
André MESSAGER (1853-1929)
Solo de Concours [5:40] a
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943), arr. Leonard Rose
Vocalise [6:08] a
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849), arr. Pöntinen, M. Fröst
Nocturne in E flat major, Op.9 No.2 [4:42] a
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Dein Angesicht, Op.127 No.2 a
Vittorio MONTI (1868-1922) , arr. Pöntinen, M. Fröst
Csárdás [4:52] a
Anders HILLBORG (b.1954)
The Peacock Moment (Påfågelsögonblick) [1:08] a
Martin FRÖST (b.1970)
Improvisation (based on a theme by Malcolm Arnold) [2:26]
Charles CHAPLIN (1889-1977), arr. R. Pöntinen
Smile [4:02] a
Göran FRÖST (b.1974)
Brudvals för Karin och Martin [3:07] e
Svante HENRYSON (b.1963)
Off Pist [4:33] f
Eden AHBEZ (1908-1995)
Nature Boy [2:38] g

Other performers
a Roland Pöntinen; b Torlief Thedéen (cello); c Christian Svarfvar, Åsa Hallerbäck Thedéen (violin), Göran Fröst (viola), Torlief Thedéen (cello), Svante Henryson (bass); d Malena Ernman (mezzo), Roland Pöntinen; e Herman Stefánsson, Sölve Kingstedt (clarinet), Åsa Hallerbäck Thedéen, Christian Svarfvar (violin), Göran Fröst (viola), Torlief Thedéen (cello), Svante Henryson (bass); f Svante Henryson (cello); g Torlief Thedéen (cello), Svante Henryson (bass)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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