ALBUM TITLE: Nielsen
WORKS: Clarinet Concerto; Flute Concerto; Wind Quintet
PERFORMER: Emmanuel Pahud (flute), Sabine Meyer (clarinet), Jonathan Kelly (oboe), Radek Baborak (horn), Stefan Schweigert (bassoon); Berlin PO/Simon Rattle
CATALOGUE NO: 394 4212
Nielsen conceived his 1922 Wind Quintet as a group portrait of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet, and intended to follow it with concertos tailored to each of the players. In the end he managed only two, both in their different ways masterly. The Flute Concerto pits a fastidious soloist against a not always sympathetic orchestra, including a clod-hopping trombone. Emmanuel Pahud plays the solo part brilliantly, but he occasionally exaggerates his rubato in order to impose himself on the opulent Berlin Philharmonic strings; and some of Rattle’s tempos in the first movement are so broad as to disrupt the pastoral flow. Among rival versions, Patrick Gallois’s is more convincingly scaled and paced.
In the Clarinet Concerto, a mercurial soloist gradually comes to terms with an orchestra including an insistent side drum. Sabine Meyer’s performance has the misfortune to follow hard on Martin Fröst’s, hailed by Robert Layton in the July issue as a likely benchmark ‘for many years to come’. It comes close in virtuosity and insight, but one or two passages hang fire slightly, and the Berlin strings sometimes dominate unduly.
All the same, these are very fine performances, and the Quintet makes what should be the perfect coupling. It’s given in general an outstanding reading by Pahud, Meyer, and colleagues from the Berlin Philharmonic and Meyer’s own ensemble. But for repeated listening it’s scuppered by a tiny oboe slip in the finale, followed by a twiddle obviously intended as a ‘spoiler’ for that take. Whoops! Anthony Burton