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The Princess and The Bear
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Duet-Concertino TrV293 [21.47]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Trio in E flat major Op.38 [39.12]
Mikhail GLINKA (1804-1847)
Trio pathétique in D minor [15.08]
Laurence Perkins (bassoon)
Sarah Watts (clarinet)
Martin Roscoe (piano)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Sian Edwards
rec. 2014/15, Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow
HYPERION CDA68263 [76.14]

This is not an indispensable issue, but one which is continually interesting and will give much pleasure. Both Perkins and Watts are technically assured, but, more importantly, characterful players.

The title comes from the inspiration for Strauss’s Duet-Concertino, from 1947, a piece which deserves to be much more frequently played. Though Strauss left no descriptive synopsis, its origin was in Beauty and the Beast. If we know that, the clarinet and bassoon are clearly the two characters, against the background of strings and harp. The narrative and the pictorial were essential to the composer’s genius – he rather shocked Otto Klemperer when he said that even when conducting ‘pure’ music such as a Beethoven symphony, he thought of it pictorially, in terms of an unfolding story. At one level, the Duet-Concertino is a bringing together of the two characters, but some have seen it as also about mutual understanding and unity after the horrors and aggression of the Second World War.

In any case, the piece is not as well-known as it should be and is worth many more performances than it receives. The performance on this disc is spacious, the orchestral parts well-articulated by Sian Edwards and the RSNO, something of a house-band for this label. For my taste, the bassoon and clarinet are too brightly lit in contrast with the orchestra – the balance feels slightly unnatural. The players have distinct voices, and the beauties of the piece have space to emerge. If I marginally prefer the now venerable recording by Manfred Weise and Wolfgang Liebscher with Rudolf Kempe, it is because of the tighter architecture. The new recording is more languid. Comparative timings are interesting: the new recording is almost 22 minutes, while Kempe takes 18:14 for the whole work.

The Beethoven is an arrangement of an arrangement. The composer arranged his Op. 20 Septet for a trio of clarinet, cello and piano as Op.38. This recording substitutes bassoon for cello. This works well and the interplay of the instruments is characterful in this performance. The effect is attractive and worth revisiting.

It is good to be reminded of the excellence of Mikhail Glinka. The Trio, composed when he was 28, shows very well the operatic influence of his studies in Milan. There are echoes of Bellini and Donizetti, but the voice is distinctly that of Glinka. It is a lovely piece, sometimes agitated, sometimes brooding, and when performed as sensitively as it is here, a very rewarding one.

Michael Wilkinson

Previous reviews: Brian Wilson ~ Dominy Clements



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