Nielsen’s Flute and Clarinet Concertos played by Samuel Coles and Mark van de Wiel

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COMPOSERS: Carl Nielsen
LABELS: Signum Classics
WORKS: Flute Concerto; Clarinet Concerto; Aladdin Suite
PERFORMER: Samuel Coles (flute), Mark van de Wiel (clarinet); Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi


Carl Nielsen’s two late woodwind concertos are performed here by the Philharmonia Orchestra with its own principals, in live recordings (no applause) at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Both works were conceived as portraits of their first soloists. Samuel Coles neatly personifies the fastidious Gilbert Jespersen, maintaining elegance and integrity in response to the intrusions of the orchestra, including a particularly obnoxious bass trombone. The controlled orchestral playing and the natural sound balance create a nice sense of chamber-music interplay between the soloist and his colleagues – including, sensibly, a solo violin rather than a whole section for the flickering runs at 2:35 in the first movement. Mark van de Wiel is equally convincing as the choleric Aage Oxenvad, responding angrily to the orchestra, and in the virtuoso cadenzas equally capable of picking a fight with himself. Unfortunately, the side drum, which frequently eggs him on, all but disappears from the balance at lower dynamic levels.

A rival account of the concertos by the New York Philharmonic with its principals under Alan Gilbert, on Dacapo, boasts equally fine solo and orchestral playing, but the recording shines more of a spotlight on the soloists (and on a larger-than-life trombone). That disc completes the set of Nielsen’s concertos with an outstanding account of the Violin Concerto by Nikolaj Znaider. This one adds a colourful studio recording of the Suite from the music for the play Aladdin, with its Ivesian depiction of ‘The Marketplace in Ispahan’ in four superimposed, unrelated strands of music.


Anthony Burton