John Broggio. *****
A wonderful disc handicapped only by a slightly odd choice of repertoire.
The soloists here (Maximiliano Martin – clarinet, Peter Whelan – bassoon, Alec Frank-Gemmill – horn) are all principals of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and show-off in concerto form their talents (as opposed the many symphonic wonders they have presented over the years). In terms of conception the clarinet concerto no. 1 & the concertino for clarinet & orchestra are given readings that are closer to Weber: Clarinet Concertos & Quintet – Fröst than Weber: Clarinet Concertos Nos. 1 & 2, Concertino – Steffens, Szulc in both scale and conception. However, as those familiar with their stunning Mozart discs will testify, the SCO is very well trained in HIP matters and they bring their knowledge to bear here with rewarding results. Martin is just as fleet-of-foot as Martin Frost and preference will most likely come down to the slightly more graceful response of the SCO to Aexander Janizcek’s direction (also bearing in mind that this disc disappointingly doesn’t present the 2nd clarinet concerto in preference to the concertino).
Next up is the bassoon concerto which currently has only one alternative offering on SACD (Weber: The Symphonies, Bassoon Concerto – Kantorow). Both these accounts are beyond reproach and again, leaving repertoire aside, ones preferences are probably determined by whether the more forthright approach of Kantorow better fits ones conception of Weber’s music – both are delightful to listen to and one personally would not want to be without either! The horn concertino is the version in the SACD catalogue (there are fewer than 10 on RBCD at the time of writing!) so it will quite possibly be unfamiliar to many listeners. Like the clarinet concertino, the horn concertino is structured slow-faster-fast (in this case, the finale is a polacca). The first two movements allow Frank-Gemmill to display his lyrical ability to great effect; it is almost impossible to detect (outside rests) where he chooses to breathe! The middle of the central andante con moto has many bravura passages which are played with disarming, thrilling ease and the cadenza in which (I think) he sings down the horn to get a chord from it is astonishing! The finale “merely” caps the work with a display of self-effacing virtuoso playing that is just smile-inducing.
Sonically, this is another gem from Linn. The one aspect that may concern some listeners is that occasionally during the bassoon concerto, there is a certain amount of key noise from Whelan’s instrument compared to the BIS account but nothing much to get worked up about! Otherwise, the soloists are presented honestly and the details of the orchestration are easily heard whilst retaining a cohesive and coherent whole.
If the repertoire suits, this is enthusiastically recommended.