LABELS: RCA Red Seal
WORKS: Dance Preludes
PERFORMER: Richard Stoltzman (clarinet); Warsaw PO/Lawrence Leighton Smith
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 63836 2
Stoltzman has had an international career for over 30 years, and his tone is still clean and focused, though his fingers don’t always have all their old agility. He produces a wide range of colour through subtle use of timbre and vibrato (which he normally uses sparingly), and his performances are never over the top: in the Lutosawski Dance Preludes this is a positive advantage, as these short folk-inspired pieces are basically simple in nature. But the Nielsen Concerto could do with a bit more edge and aggression, particularly in the passages where the clarinet indulges in rude counterpoint with the side drum, though the lyrical slow music benefits from Stoltzman’s artless phrasing and long lines. The Prokofiev is an arrangement of the Flute Sonata, and the solo part works well in its new guise, as does the orchestration, even if a few sections are a little bland.
The four American pieces from the mid-Nineties are all uncompromisingly backward-looking in style. Jeffrey Nytch’s Concerto could almost be by Walton; Margaret Brouwer’s is out of Barber and Gershwin via Bernstein, though its swanee whistle effects have more to do with Tom and Jerry; Marie Barker Nelson’s Culinary Concerto is harder to pin down, as it swings between Romantic opulence and jazzy insouciance like an old Hollywood film score; and William Thomas McKinley’s Going Home is a take on the theme of the slow movement of Dvorák’s New World Symphony, with mad solo jazz piano and grandiose orchestral tuttis: a waste of Stoltzman’s talents. Martin Cotton