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Copland • R Strauss: Duet Concertino, etc

Ernst Ottensamer (clarinet), et al; Northern Sinfonia/Richard Stamp (Signum Classics)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Copland  R Strauss
R Strauss: Duet Concertino*; Capriccio – Prelude**; Copland: Clarinet Concerto; Appalachian Spring – Suite (1944 version)
Ernst Ottensamer (clarinet), *Stepan Turnovsky (bassoon); **Academy of London; Northern Sinfonia/Richard Stamp
Signum Classics SIGCD 654   75:14 mins

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Late Richard Strauss and middle-period Copland is an odd coupling. Even the recordings are disparate, the Copland tracks dating from 2014, the Strauss from 1990-91. True, all the music here is from the 1940s, with the concertos – both composed between 1946-48 – being played by the late Ernst Ottensamer, the Vienna Philharmonic’s sometime principal clarinet.

Strauss’s Duet-Concertino goes very nicely, the initially disputatious soloists gambolling amicably through its extended rococo finale. Unfortunately, several details of Strauss’s elaborate interactions for solo string group and string orchestra and harp are lost in the overgeneralised recording – as they are in the vibrantly performed string sextet movement that serves as a Prelude to his last opera, Capriccio.

Appalachian Spring in its original chamber scoring gets the most convincing reading: Richard Stamp secures real zip in the faster music, and there is some lovely tender playing from the Royal Northern Sinfonia principals in the more poised passages. The Clarinet Concerto is acceptable, but its finale lacks the friskiness and bounce of the best readings.

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Bayan Northcott