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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Clarinet Concerto, K622 [26:52]
Kegelstatt Trio, K498 [18:41]
Allegro for Clarinet and String Quartet, K. Anh. 91 - Fragment completed by Robert Levin [7:10]
Martin Fröst (clarinet)
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen; Antoine Tamestit (viola), Leif Ove Andsnes (piano); Janine Jansen & Boris Brovitsyn (violins), Maxim Rysanov (viola), Torleif Thedéen (cello)
rec. July 2010, Kammer-Philharmonie, Bremen, Germany (Concerto); July 2012, Jar kirke, Jar, Norway (Trio); February 2013, Grünewaldsalen, Stockholm Concert Hall, Sweden (Allegro)
BIS BIS-SACD-1893 [53:43]

Martin Fröst’s new Mozart disc is a real winner, gathering together some of the composer’s most famous and well-loved works for the clarinet. He opens with the concerto, but for this work he plays on a modern recreation of a basset clarinet. As a rule, I much prefer that when soloists play this work. In the version for a modern instrument, the soloist is too often required to turn back on a run, or to transpose up a phrase: to my ears there is more continuity and flow when it is played by a basset clarinet with its deeper range, and so it transpires here, too. This is no good, however, unless it is well played, which it most definitely is in this case. There is a subtlety and delicacy to Fröst’s playing which is very winning. He never puts himself forward unduly but is very much first-among-equals with the orchestra. This is helped by two things. Firstly, the delicate nature and small scale of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, who show themselves to be ideal partners for this music, not least by the transparency of their sound that allows all of the colours to shine through and the communicative nature of their music-making. Secondly, however, it helps enormously that Fröst directs the concerto from the clarinet, so he operates as part of a group rather than as a luxurious add-on.
The concerto’s first movement moves forward with just the right sense of forward momentum, and the music feels supple and open. The slow movement, on the other hand, seems to hang suspended in mid-air. Fröst gives us a profoundly beautiful meditation, whose outer sections come as close as anything in Mozart’s music to touching the divine. It helps, though, that this Adagio keeps moving, never slowing down to the point of becoming Mozart soup, something many over-indulgent performances fall victim to. The finale is lithe and bouncy, but the clarinet has a predominantly silky almost quality that only adds to the quality of the sound.
The Kegelstatt Trio gets luxury casting indeed. Using star soloists for chamber music doesn’t always work, but it does here, each of the artists subsuming their own skills and egos into the service of the overall whole. The opening movement is delightful, each phrase seeming to pose a question that is then answered by another. The second is more robust, but still good-humoured, and while the finale still seems to smile gently, it has a more autumnal sound that I naturally associate with it. It’s a quality more often applied to the concerto than this trio, but it makes the more all the more moving, and I liked it very much.
The rarity here is the quintet movement (K Anh. 91), completed in the 1960s by Robert Levin. It’s a substantial movement, agile but fairly serious in its central development section. It certainly gives Fröst plenty of opportunities for athletic solo display, but backed by very sensitive and able string playing.
The recorded sound is excellent and the notes contain thorough essays about all three works, as well as biographies of most of the performers. Even if you already have a recording of the concerto, this disc is definitely worth catching.
Simon Thompson