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Violin Concerto (arr. For clarinet by Mikhail Pletnev)

Clarinet Concerto.
Michael Collins: Clarinet, Russian National Orchestra Mikhail Pletnev
DG 457-652-2 70m DDD.
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This is an interesting and highly polished transcription of Beethoven's Violin Concerto. Pletnev arranges the work with an instinctive feel for the seductive tones of the wind instrument which blends well into Beethoven's unique soundworld. In Michael Collins, Pletnev has the ideal player, someone who can understand the subtle nuances and inflexions that permeate Beethoven's work in a typically brilliant fashion. The expansive Allegro ma non troppo is beautifully shaped throughout, this confirms that the work adapts well to this sort of treatment. I found much beauty in the sublime Larghetto where the clarinet almost sounds even better than the original violin with its dreamy seductive tones. The Rondo is also hectically paced with Pletnev and his estimable orchestra quite 'unbuttoned' as Beecham would have said.

We do not need another Mozart concerto recording as the field is obviously stashed full of excellent competitors but Collins and Pletnev certainly lend their authority to an overplayed work that is still the calling card for the instrument. Moreover Collins plays a basset clarinet, which is the original instrument for which the work was written. Breathlessy clear recordings and charismatic notes add up to a fine package for those interested in the curious. The Beethoven transcription certainly deserves a listen.

Gerald Fenech



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