Copland & Finzi – Clarinet Concertos

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Copland,Finzi
LABELS: Somm
WORKS: Copland: Clarinet Concerto; Appalachian Spring; Finzi: Clarinet Concerto; Romance
PERFORMER: Sarah Williamson (clarinet); Orchestra of the Swan/David Curtis
CATALOGUE NO: SOMMCD 244

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The clarinet concertos by Copland and Finzi have more in common than you might think: both were written in the late 1940s, and both are accompanied by string orchestra, in Copland’s case with the telling addition of harp and piano. But the Copland is big-city music – Paris and New York, with a touch of Rio de Janeiro – while the Finzi is rooted in the English countryside.

The young British clarinettist Sarah Williamson, making her debut on disc, finds appropriate colours for both, and makes light of their technical demands. But in the slow-waltz opening section of the Copland her phrases don’t always flow with ideal smoothness, and though its cadenza is marked ‘freely’ she perhaps applies too much rhythmic distortion to ideas being presented for the first time; and in the Finzi the finale’s rondo theme sounds slightly hurried each time it appears.

David Curtis’s Midlands-based Orchestra of the Swan provides reliable support, but in a rather cramped-sounding acoustic which seems to inhibit the louder dynamic levels. 

The disc is completed not with another clarinet concerto (why not the very attractive little concerto Joseph Phibbs wrote for these performers last year?), but with Copland’s familiar Appalachian Spring suite for 13 instruments and Finzi’s Romance, in enthusiastic if not always ideally polished accounts.

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Still, if the programme, and especially the pairing of the two composers, appeals to you, you won’t be disappointed by this disc. And we shall certainly be hearing more of Sarah Williamson. Anthony Burton