WORKS: Orchestral Suite No. 2 (Geharnischte Suite); Berceuse élégiaque; Concertino for Clarinet and Small Orchestra,
PERFORMER: John Bradbury (clarinet); BBC Philharmonic/Neeme Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9920
Since Neeme Järvi and Chandos parted company some years back, the byways of the CD repertoire have been much the poorer served. With this disc, business resumes as usual: a true original as the chosen composer, a constantly surprising programme and performances alternating unparalleled atmosphere with infectious spirit. Busoni remains as elusive as usual. The selection starts with the ‘Armour-plated Suite’, no more a pre-war hymn to militarism than Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben. The dedicatees were Helsinki-based artists with Sibelius at their centre, and the open-air scoring actually suggests Nielsen, though with even more structural unpredictability; Järvi and the BBC Philharmonic go appropriately crazy at the end of the ‘War Dance’ and conjure a misty solemnity for the ‘Funeral Monument’ – no state affair, this – before the surprising clownish elegance of ‘Assault’.
The commedia dell’arte side of Busoni hardly surfaces again (can we expect a second disc with the Turandot Suite and the dizzying Rondo arlecchinesco?) Withdrawn elegies edging towards Webern are interwoven with restrained neo-classicism – BBC Philharmonic principal John Bradbury, limpid in the Clarinet Concertino – and uneasy ballet, with the Tanzwalzer as comfortless as Ravel’s La valse, jerking between spectral musings and wild, Mephistophelean outbursts: compelling throughout, but uncomfortable listening. David Nice