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John CORIGLIANO(b. 1938)
Concerto for clarinet and orchestra (1977) [28:34] Elliott CARTER(1908-2012) Concerto for clarinet and small orchestra (1996) [20:13]
Eddy Vanoosthuyse (clarinet)
Brussels Philharmonic/Paul Meyer
rec. 19-23 December 2011, Studio 4, Flagey, Brussels, Belgium AEON AECD 1230 [50:01]
Belgian Aeon is releasing a series featuring contemporary composers
from the 20th and 21st centuries. This release is of music by two composers,
New York City born and bred, who wrote clarinet concertos that are regarded
by many as masterworks of the contemporary concertante genre.
John Corigliano is renowned as an eclectic who holds that his primary
concern is to communicate with an audience, striving not to allow his
writing to be over-technical or too thorny. The three movement Clarinet
Concerto was written in 1977 and is scored for a large orchestra.
Some of the players such as the five horns and two trumpets are required
for spatial acoustic reasons to locate themselves at various positions
in the concert hall. It was the New York Philharmonic that introduced
the work under Leonard Bernstein with principal clarinettist Stanley
Drucker as soloist. This is knotty and densely scored embracing dissonance
and a number of intriguing and challenging effects for the soloist.
Nevertheless it manages to remain accessible to the non-specialist who
is prepared to adopt a reasonably degree of concentration and openness.
Required to play often in the highest registers Eddy Vanoosthuyse is
equal to its taxing and often extrovert challenges. Certainly Corigliano’s
writing accommodates broad dynamics, contrasting emotions and a wealth
of chromatic colours. Especially effective in the opening movement is
the thundering climax for full orchestra at 8:34-9:05; it sends an icy
shudder down the spine. The central movement is marked Elegy
in memory of the composer’s father - John Corigliano senior a former
concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic. The mainly cool and nocturnal
music reminded me of the sound world Copland’s Quiet City and
Ives’s Central Park in the Dark. It also evoked vast open spaces
an image laced here with an underlying melancholy. Providing a haunting
sadness is the passage at 4:36-6:56 where the solo violin is in dialogue
with the ever-present clarinet. This duet could easily represent the
composer’s concertmaster father and his colleague Stanley Drucker performing
in the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Leonard Bernstein. The
final movement - Antiphonal Toccata - according to soloist
Vanoosthuyse might easily depict the magnitude of New York City. Here
the composer has been saving up a number of instruments to use for the
first time. With extra weight from additional brass - intended in concert
to be off-stage - the second half of the movement majors on material
that is angrily loud and discordant. One can feel Corigliano giving
vent to his emotions here.
When Elliot Carter died in 2011 in New York aged 103 he was America’s
most revered living composer. Carter wasn’t one to follow fashions and
he gradually developed a personal style and gained international recognition
relatively late in his life. Written in 1996 Carter was eighty-eight
years old when writing his Concerto for clarinet and small orchestra.
This was commissioned by Pierre Boulez and the Ensemble InterContemporain
to showcase the talents of dedicatee Alain Damiens, the ensemble’s renowned
clarinettist who introduced the work in 1997 at Cité de la Musique,
Paris. Carter’s Clarinet Concerto is cast in seven interconnected
sections with an alternating dialogue by Vanoosthuyse moving between
six instrumental groups with the seventh section being for the whole
orchestra. The relatively spare scoring includes only five solo strings
and it seems that the concerto can be played with only one instrument
to a part. This is a demanding work with the soloist required to play
virtually continuously. I especially enjoyed the affecting section at
11:22-13:45 with the clarinet floating over lightly scored strings to
create an introspective melancholic mood.
Vanoosthuyse clearly has a special affinity for these demanding concertos
and advocates their character with concentration and assurance. There’s
highly persuasive support from the Brussels Philharmonic. The sound
is satisfactory and warmly atmospheric.