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Night Passages (Martin Fröst)

Martin Fröst (clarinet), Sébastien Dubé (bass), Roland Pöntinen (piano) (Sony Classical)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Night Passages
Works by Afvén, JS Bach, Cesti, Corea, Handel, Purcell, Rameau, Rodgers, D Scarlatti et al
Martin Fröst (clarinet), Sébastien Dubé (bass), Roland Pöntinen (piano)
Sony Classical G0100045976027   48:26 mins

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Martin Fröst’s latest album presents a thrilling display of virtuosity. In this, his fourth release for Sony Classical, Fröst curates an eclectic mix of Baroque music (JS Bach, Cesti, Handel, Henry Purcell, Rameau and Domenico Scarlatti), arrangements of songs by Chick Corea, Gordon Jenkins and Richard Rodgers, with Art and Folk music from his native Sweden. Fröst’s six poetic distillations in the booklet notes project the autobiographical nature of his repertoire. In testament to his versatility, Fröst appears as performer, composer and co-arranger.

Baroque offerings, particularly by Purcell, Scarlatti and the outer two Rameau tracks, display Fröst’s rapid staccato, but his range of articulation is not perhaps quite as expressive as the music demands. Many of these arrangements prioritise the clarinet’s bright middle register, instead of revealing the instrument’s capacity for warmer and richer timbres. A welcome contrast comes in pianist Roland Pöntinen’s arrangement of Rameau’s Musette tendre et Rondeau where Fröst revels in the delicacy and sensitivity of the clarinet’s lower register. Of the two Corea numbers, Rhumba shows Fröst at his best, dispatching glissandos and virtuosic roulades, cleverly matching his sound to partner the pizzicato bass. The album’s highlight is surely the two Dorotea tracks, which combine Fröst’s agility, dexterity of tonguing and timbral variety.

The album makes a welcome change from the endless recycling of clarinet warhorses elsewhere in the catalogue. Plaudits to Sony for giving Fröst freedom to traverse this breadth of repertoire, highlighting both his own versality and that of the clarinet.

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Ingrid Pearson