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Ernesto CAVALLINI (1807-1874)
Works for Clarinet and Orchestra
Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in E flat Major (1827) [14:42]
Variations on a theme from Bellini's La Straniera (1843) [18:09]
Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in C Minor () [19:50]
Trois Variations sur la Romance russe Oh! Dites lui de Mme la Princesse L. Kotschoubey arr. for clarinet and orchestra (1862) [10:01]
Giuseppe Porgo (clarinet)
Norddeutsche Philharmonie Rostock/Johannes Moesus
rec, 2011, Katharinensaal der Hochschule für Musik und Theater, Rostock
CPO 777 948-2 [63:21]

CPO's lead-in periods are often quite lengthy. Makes you wonder what else is sitting in the queue.

Here, some four years after being recorded, we are lead seductively by Giuseppe Porgo through four works by Italian clarinet specialist Ernesto Cavallini - said by contemporaries to be the "Paganini of the Clarinet". The music embraces the interest and charms the ear indefatigably. Cavallini is more of a "Mozart of the Clarinet" and his stock-in-trade leans on bel canto blended with manners similar to those of Weber and Spohr. Oh there are some Beethovenian effects and tempests as well as some cloud-filled skies (No. 1 III; No. 2 I) but these concertos are really about the long lyric line, chuckling sleight of hand (No. 2, III) and the flouncy flutter.

Cavallini is nevertheless quite a dab-hand with orchestral effects including the hunting horns unison at the start of the Bellini Variations with its regimental strut. Movements tend to be short: Cavallini knows how long to pitch an idea before it decays into hum-drum. The tension and conspiratorial air is adroitly done in the first and middle movements of the Second Clarinet Concerto and also in the Trois Variations that end the CD.

The North German orchestra make a very nice job of these Italianate charmers and the debonair Porgo seems unlikely to be excelled any time soon. The sound is winningly smooth although I did notice a low level 'bump' between tracks 15 and 16 - gone in an instant. Otherwise all is well. The much more than serviceable liner-essay is by Luigi Magistrelli.

I wonder if there is more to come from this team. You will be won over if you have any taste for the nineteenth century clarinet concertante of which these are strong but otherwise forgotten examples.

Rob Barnett



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