Nielsen, Aho: Clarinet Concertos - Fröst, Vänskä
Classical - Orchestral
Nielsen: Clarinet Concerto, Aho: Clarinet Concerto
Martin Fröst (clarinet)
Lahti Symphony Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä (conductor)
Martin Fröst’s latest releases feature the core repertoire for his instrument from the 18th and 19th centuries: the Mozart Concerto and Quintet, Brahms’s sonatas and, most recently, Weber’s concertos. All of these offerings have been singularly well received by reviewers and record buyers alike, and have contributed to Fröst’s flourishing concert career. While his concert programmes certainly include the works of Brahms, Schumann and their likes, Fröst is however also known as one of today’s most charismatic performers of contemporary music, and on this disc he shows us why. Combining two great Scandinavian works for the clarinet, from 1928 and 2005 respectively, he makes a passionate case for music as a timeless and universal means of communication.
Carl Nielsen’s Concerto was one of the composer’s last works, but although Nielsen had by this time reached the status of elder statesman in Danish musical life, the work was met with consternation at its première. It has since become part of the repertoire, but as implied in a recent Copenhagen concert review, it can still misfire: ‘There are those who play Carl Nielsen’s knotty clarinet concerto from 1928 as a chunk of dogged, fragmented and rather shrill modernism. And then there are those, like the Swede Martin Fröst, who bring it off as a piece of wild and visionary leprechaun music, almost like an extraordinary breakneck improvisation.’
In marked contrast, Kalevi Aho’s Concerto, composed for Fröst some 80 years later, was immediately hailed as ‘a masterpiece’ at its première, in London in April 2005: ‘Until you've heard Martin Fröst, you really haven't heard the clarinet. This young Swedish musician becomes the clarinet. His entire body moves and breathes with the instrument - and he creates sounds the likes of which you will go a very long way to hear… It's a mark of Fröst's imagination and genius that he chose the Finnish composer Kalevi Aho to write him a clarinet concerto... a work of beguiling beauty and huge excitement’ (The Times, UK). Supporting Fröst in both works is the Lahti Symphony Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä, whose expertise in the music of both Kalevi Aho and Nielsen is well documented, in the concert hall as well as on disc.
Recorded in May 2004 at the Sibelius Hall, Lahti, Finland (Nielsen) and in June 2006 at the Church of the Cross (Ristinkirkko), Lahti, Finland (Aho), 24/44.1
Recording producer: Hans Kipfer
Sound engineer: Thore Brinkmann (Nielsen), Matthias Spitzbarth (Aho)
Digital editing: Nora Brandenburg (Nielsen); Elisabeth Kemper (Aho)
Equipment: Neumann microphones; RME Octamic D microphone preamplifier and high resolution A/D converter; MADI optical cabling; Yamaha DM1000 digital mixer; Sequoia Workstation; Pyramix DSD Workstation (SACD); B&W Nautilus 802 loudspeakers; STAX headphones
Executive producer: Robert Suff
Review by Mark Novak - March 25, 2007
This is as good a performance of the Nielsen concerto as any I've heard on rbcd. Martin Frost is a terrific clarinetist and everything I've heard him play via recordings has been top caliber both technically and interpretively. The work seems to pose no difficulties for Frost allowing the artist's musical expression to take center stage. A very worthwhile and satisfying performance.
Despite the excellence of the Nielsen, it is the clarinet concerto by Kalevi Aho that brings the most interest to this SACD. It is a recent commissioned work written for Frost which explores a broad range of the instrument's capabilities. I have most of Aho's music on disc (all on Bis whose commitment to contemporary music is unparalleled) and I find him to be a fascinating composer. He writes from a tonal base though often quite chromatically. While very often fascinated by Aho's works, I must say there are few of his works that I love. Of his extant works on rbcd, I most enjoy the Symphonies 2&7 which share a disc. The five movement concerto has the soloist playing most of the time. I imagine this is a difficult piece to play but Frost makes it sound like music instead of effort. I am glad to have heard it but, again, it is not a work I will ever love.
The sound is generally fine but the clarinet is much to far forward in the stereo mix. I would have liked a more natural balance. The orchestral contribution for both works is superb as we have come to expect from the Lahti players under Vanska. If you are looking for some interesting new music that is well played along side a repertoire regular, don't hesitate!
Copyright © 2007 Mark Novak and HRAudio.net