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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Caprices and Laments: No Way A Clarinet Is Going To Let This Music End Without A Howl

By Norman Lebrecht on January 8, 2021

Caprices and Laments: Clarinet Concertos by Nielsen, Copland & MacMillan (Delphian)

★★★★☆

🎧  Delphian

The sound I miss most in our orchestral silence is the unexpected wail of a clarinet, in pain or pleasure like a cat in coitus, at the moment a symphony seems to be drifting towards the intermission. No way is the clarinet going to let this music end without a howl.

Of all clarinet concertos, and I include Mozart’s, Aaron Copland’s is my favourite by a Siamese smile. Grifted from a dying cadence in Mahler’s ninth symphony, it meanders down the back-lots of Hollywood through some jazz riffs and pony clops to an upbeat, slightly phony all-American fadeout. That’s all, folks.

Carl Nielsen’s concerto, austere as a Danish Easter, is often said to be more fun for players than for listeners. Myself, I’m happy to spend half an hour in its ethereal vistas. The great Dane never wastes a bar of music. He can be a bit preachy but the craftsmanship is a wonder to behold and the mind behind it is absorbing, especially in the slower stretches.

 

 

I’ve never heard Tuireadh by James MacMillan in concert and it’s an omission I want to repair once these things become possible again. The Scots composer, deeply affected by a 1988 accident on a North Sea oil-rig that claimed 167 lives, wrote the concerto as a kind of keening for the lost souls and their loved ones. He captures both an indigenous Caledonian tone and an off-the-note sonority peculiar to the clarinet. Simply put, it’s a Scottish Kaddish.

What I like most about this release is the playing of the Spanish soloist Maximiliano Martin, principal clarinet of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, an artist of great experience who has so much more to say in these pieces than the general run of record fodder. In the gloom of maritime disaster, he offers glints of hope. The orchestra is pretty good, too. It’s from Tenerife, conductor Lucas Macias Navarro.

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, follow him on Slippedisc.com.

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Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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Ludwig Van Toronto

THE SCOOP | Stratford Summer Music Appoints New General Manager

By Michael Vincent on January 20, 2021

Stratford Summer Music (SSM) has hired Kendra Fry as General Manager, effective April 1, 2021.
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THE SCOOP | Composer Barbara Croall Named Officer Of The Order Of Ontario

By Michael Vincent on January 6, 2021

Among the list of 47 honourees appointed as an Officer of the Order of Ontario is the award-winning composer Barbara Croall.
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THE SCOOP | National Ballet Wins Best International Short Film At Milan International Film Festival

By Michael Vincent on January 6, 2021

Lulu, part of the National Ballet of Canada’s Expansive Dances series, has won Best International Short Film at the 2020 Milan International Film Festival.
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