COMPOSERS: Molter & Mozart
ALBUM TITLE: Clarinet Concertos
WORKS: Clarinet Concerto No. 1; Clarinet Concerto No. 3; Clarinet Concerto No. 4
PERFORMER: Kari Kriikku (clarinet, basset clarinet); Tapiola Sinfonietta/John Storgårds
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 1056-2
This new addition to the huge list of recordings of Mozart’s late Clarinet Concerto is very fine. The Finnish clarinettist Kari Kriikku, probably better known as an interpreter of contemporary music, gives a performance which is light and nimble but never flashy, with subtly shaded dynamics adding depth of expression; he plays a basset-clarinet with the extra low notes Mozart intended, and adds some generally convincing decoration. The Tapiola Sinfonetta provide mellifluous, chamber-scale support, recorded in
a pleasantly natural balance. Perhaps my only criticism is that very occasionally, especially in the finale, Kriikku seems to lose rhythmic grip and skid through a phrase slightly. But he comes very close to supplanting my long-time benchmark, Sabine Meyer’s spontaneous yet controlled live recording with the Berlin Philharmonic and Claudio Abbado.
What may tip the balance is the coupling. Kriikku offers real interest for clarinet fans with three of the earliest concertos for the instrument, written by Johann Melchior Molter at the Karlsruhe court around 1750. They are fascinating pieces, stylistically somewhere between Vivaldi and early Haydn, with solo parts for the piercingly high clarinet in D. Kriikku negotiates them with technical fluency and stylistic awareness, apart from an ill-judged cadenza stuck at the end of No. 4. Neat orchestral support, impeccable recording. Anthony Burton