This short CD of provincial live performances is notable mostly for drawing attention to Jean Françaix’s clarinet concerto. A smart and substantial work in four movements, the concerto opens with the clarinet talking to its wind-mates, including a piccolo and a rambunctious bassoon. Radovan Cavallin deserves credit just for surviving his performance: this is a fiendish concerto full of crazy looping solos and squiggly melodic lines.
The pairing is the legendary Mozart concerto, which is fitting since Françaix drew so much inspiration from Mozart, but also unfortunate, since we all have better recordings than this one already. Radovan Cavallin is a fine soloist, and his performance certainly is plenty good enough that if you never hear another recording of the concerto you will feel fine, but this album is not going to join the ranks of the greats.
My best advice is to try the Françaix concerto, but on another album: maybe Shirley Brill’s Aparte release, coupled with another Françaix work and an arrangement of Prokofiev’s flute sonata, or maybe the recent Indesens reissue of the concerto conducted by Françaix himself. On ClassicsOnline, there’s an album coupling Françaix with Charles Stanford’s concerto; I have not heard this but it looks promising.
This album is for completists and perhaps lovers of the Canary Islands. My review copy was a download; should you purchase the CD version, note that the back cover is wrong and the Mozart allegro is longer than 3 minutes.