The Clarinet concertos of Charles Villiers Stanford and Gerald Finzi have been in vogue in recent years after many decades of neglect. Unavailable on record in the 70s and 80s, there have been multiple recordings of each in the 90s. This is the best of the bunch.
Ms. Johnson is a spectacular young player who, alas, does not seem to have crossed the Atlantic. She produces a beautiful warm tone and has the temperment and flexibility to use rubato to great effect. (Too many clarinettists get hung up on the cool perfection the instrument can produce and the result is boredom.) She digs into this music and lets it sing.
The better of the two pieces is clearly the Finzi, which reveals this composer's delight in aching suspensions and bittersweet dissonances. The second movement is truly profound, which is not a term usually applied to clarinet concertos. The first and last movements don't quite reach the same heights, but are full of memorable melodies. (Listen to the rondo finale and then just TRY to forget the rondo tune!!)
Stanford's piece is the only late Romantic concerto currently in the repertoire. It is tuneful and pleasant with an acrobatic finale, but the listener is likely to feel it is not quite as satisfying a meal as the Finzi. Stanford never really steps outside the conventions of 19th century music to explore the possibilities of the instrument and, in fact, this piece is easier to play than the Weber concertos. Still, it is intriguing to hear and don't miss the horns in the slow movement.
The filler is memorable as well. Johnson opts for a piano in the Finzi bagatelles--unlike Richard Stoltzman's arrangement for string orchestra--and they sound better this way. The piano emphasizes the simple, but beautiful harmonies, and lets the counterpoint in the finale really come out. The Stanford pieces are pleasing as well.
If this repertoire sounds a bit esoteric, don't let that stop you. This wonderful music and this is truly GREAT playing.
- Performer: Johnson; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Groves; Martineau
- Composer: Finzi Gerald
- Audio CD (April 22 2003)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Import
- Label: Asv
- ASIN: B0000030T3
- Other Editions: Audio CD
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews