Friendships in life are one of the great joys of existence. Sharing personal moments, enduring then reconciling when arguments flare up and having the confidence of being able to say anything are the hallmarks (cross-reference below). Friendships in music—especially jet-setting conductors and soloists—are particularly hard to maintain at even a basic level, much less develop in a profound artistic relationship.
Happily, clarinettist Richard Stoltzman and conductor Kirk Trevor have come to the point where their frequent and much appreciated musical collaborations (cross-reference below) have acheived a marvellous state of anticipation and understanding.
In this delectable collection of a pair of curiosities and three works from the standard solo-clarinet and orchestra repertoire, the hands-down standout is Claude Debussy’s Première Rhapsodie. In short, it’s a marvel to behold. Stoltzman’s ever-flexible, wide-ranging tone’with judicious helpings of controlled vibrato lets him demonstrate conclusively his self-described first love from the bountiful canon of classical music. Knowing of this passion, both overtly and inwardly, Trevor sculpted the ethereal essay with a sense of oneness and support that forever banished the ridiculous notion that this “competition piece” is anything less than a masterful composition. The numerous moments of give and take never seemed to be anything but a natural and logical unfolding of musical ideas and events. Gossamer strings and equally committed contributions from the woodwinds all added to this memorable performance.
A pleasant surprise was Toru Takemitsu’s Tchaikovsky arrangement, Herbstlied(Autumn Song). The beautifully balanced voicing was meant to be the precursor for a new clarinet quintet for Stoltzman, but with the composer’s death in 1996, that challenge will have to find another proponent.
Bassist Richard Fredrickson added his remarkable skills to the seldom performed Grand Duo Concertante (Duetto), originally written for bass and violin by the Italian virtuoso Giovanni Bottesini. The unlikely musical bedfellows revelled in the frequent melodramatic measures and tossed off the coquettish finale with aplomb as the lowest member of the string family used melodic and technical entreaties to attract and keep the attention of the supple clarinet.
For those of us steeped in the German approach to clarinet playing (like Stoltzman, your reporter’s first public solo with large ensemble was the Concertino) the Weber interpretations will rankle the ear with their fanciful embellishments and added cadenzas (the extra bars from Busoni are fun to hear once but rob the music of a wonderfully subtle transition to the closing fireworks). For the rest of the population there will be much to savour both from the intrepid soloist’s flying fingers and Trevor’s supportive hands. Don’t hesitate to add this volume to your collection. JWR