The Princess and the Bear
R Strauss: Duet-Concertino, TrV293*; Beethoven: Trio in E flat, Op. 38; Glinka: Trio Pathétique in D minor
Sarah Watts (clarinet), Laurence Perkins (bassoon), Martin Roscoe (piano); *Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Sian Edwards
Hyperion CDA68263 76:14 mins
Bassoonist Laurence Perkins rather overstates the case when he writes in the booklet note that Strauss’s Duet-Concertino ‘has been seriously neglected and under-represented over the years’. There are a number of first-rate recordings; and as for the ‘Princess and the Bear’ programme, it may help to know about it, but the work is not in form or thematic charm substantially different from the Oboe Concerto of the same ‘Indian summer’ (I would call it the second spring of the octogenarian Strauss).
Graphic storytelling did transform my view of the piece when I heard Matt Hunt and Martin Kuuskmann characterise the Duet-Concertino alongside other players of Paavo Järvi’s Estonian (then Pärnu) Festival Orchestra. It emphatically does not come from this partnership with Sian Edwards and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. There’s no need to treat the opening Allegro moderato as an Adagio, though Perkins and clarinettist Sarah Watts float their longer lines very finely, and the Rondo can seem rather over-extended when it’s not filled with dancing delight. Things liven up considerably with the more twinkling support of pianist Martin Roscoe. Beethoven’s 1805 adaptation of the wind Septet relies on the buoyancy of the three players, and although it’s little more than a light serenade, the minuet springs to life and there’s fine interplay in the Theme and Variations. Glinka’s so-called Trio Pathétique is hardly more heavyweight, despite its title; the scherzo scintillates with pianistic elaborations and the slow movement gives operatic declamations to the two wind players (very high writing for the clarinet).