Carter: Clarinet Concerto; Symphonia: Sum fluxae pretium spei

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COMPOSERS: Carter
LABELS: DG Ô20/21′
WORKS: Clarinet Concerto; Symphonia: Sum fluxae pretium spei
PERFORMER: Michael Collins (clarinet); BBC SO, London Sinfonietta/Oliver Knussen
CATALOGUE NO: 459 660-2
The term ‘scorrevole’ (flowing) is one Carter has used many times from his Piano Sonata of 1946 onwards, and it could well stand as an epithet for his music generally. The Allegro scorrevole last movement of Carter’s Symphonia, completed the year before he turned 90, was suggested by some Latin lines by the metaphysical poet Richard Crashaw, describing the world from the perspective of a floating bubble. It is a score of miraculous lightness and airiness – qualities that are vividly conveyed in this splendid new recording by Oliver Knussen and the BBC SO.

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At 45 minutes, Symphonia is Carter’s largest non-theatrical work. Its three movements each arose out of a separate commission: the opening Partita was written for Barenboim and the Chicago SO (recorded on Teldec), the Adagio tenebroso middle movement was composed for the centenary of the BBC Proms, and Allegro scorrevole is dedicated to Knussen and the Cleveland Orchestra. The sombre Adagio tenebroso offers a strong contrast not only to the final panel of the triptych, but also to the extrovert and energetic Clarinet Concerto of 1996 – dazzlingly played here by Michael Collins. There is unlikely to be a more important – or finer – CD this year. Misha Donat