Copland, Corigliano: Clarinet Concertos, Etc / Stoltzman

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How curious that a contemporary clarinet concerto should receive two recordings in such quick succession. Does John Corigliano's 30-minute work deserve the honour? Well, I heard it at the 1987 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, where it was the only work in an LSO concert of American Music not to be heckled (the others were decried as absurdly derivative). It certainly deserved its respectful reception, even though the superficial and opportunistic finale seemed to me then unworthy of the cadenzas and elegy which preceded it. Looking at MEO's review of the Drucker/Mehta recording (on New World/Conifer) I see that's more or less how it struck him, too.

It helps a little to know that the finale was designed as ''a kind of festival for all the players''. And it helps that Stoltzman launches into it with even more daring and panache than Drucker (the concerto's dedicatee and a fine exponent). Stoltzman and Leighton Smith also stretch the slow movement a lot further than do Drucker and Mehta, and it says something for the expressive quality of the music that it can take this treatment. The confidence and relish with which Corigliano flings sounds around the orchestra in the opening movement also compels admiration. As for lasting quality, however, it cannot be claimed that the concerto has the substance of Nielsen's, the memorability of Copland's or a strong enough alternative identity of its own to persuade one to rank it anywhere near those works.

In the early stages of the Copland Stoltzman is rather less atmospheric than Janet Hilton (on Chandos), whose floating sound and tender legato make for a very special kind of poetry; later on her sense of fun and her feeling for the jazz idiom are also delightful. But the more the music swings, the more Stoltzman's alley-cat instincts come into their own. The LSO strings surpass their Scottish counterparts in their poise at tempo changes and in certain exposed passages later on.

The Bernstein also goes well, although Rattle on his EMI ''Jazz Collection'' manages to make it sound even more vulgar. RCA's recording quality is first rate, and for anyone drawn to this particular coupling, or to exceptional clarinet virtuosity, this is an issue not to be missed.

-- Gramophone [4/1989]

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: RCA7762

  • UPC: 078635776225

  • Label: RCA

  • Composer: Aaron Copland, John Corigliano, Leonard Bernstein

  • Conductor: Lawrence Leighton Smith

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Richard Stoltzman