Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A, K622; La clemenza di Tito (excerpts); Adagio, K411; Masonic Funeral Music

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Glossa
WORKS: Clarinet Concerto in A, K622; La clemenza di Tito (excerpts); Adagio, K411; Masonic Funeral Music
PERFORMER: Eric Hoeprich (clarinet, basset clarinet, basset-horn), Joyce DiDonato (mezzo-soprano); Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century/Frans Brüggen
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 921107
This is an attractive, unclichéd Mozart programme planned around the themes of the clarinet, Masonic ritual and the composer’s final year. Playing a basset clarinet constructed after an 18th-century engraving, Eric Hoeprich gives a vivid and poetic performance of the Concerto, subtly phrased, beautifully articulated, and especially sensitive to the music’s graceful, autumnal lyricism. Hoeprich embellishes quite freely, but always stylishly, and uses the instrument’s rich, nutty low register to particularly eloquent effect in the central section of the Adagio and in the finale (here taken more gently, less puckishly than usual). Brüggen has a keen ear for the work’s characteristically limpid textures, coloured by flutes and high-pitched horns, though I didn’t take to his mannered-sounding easing of the tempo in the first movement’s quiet cadential theme.

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The Masonic items – the Funeral Music and a solemn, touching Adagio for the rare (unique?) combination of two clarinets and three basset-horns – both come off well, with the period instruments enhancing the Funeral Music’s austere grandeur. In the Clemenza arias with clarinet and basset-horn obbligato, Joyce DiDonato reveals a glowing, full-toned mezzo, a fluent coloratura technique and plenty of dramatic temperament, though the slow sections of each aria are drawn out to dangerous lengths. Nor is the cavernous church acoustic ideal here. No complaints, though, about the sound in the other works, each recorded before a preternaturally quiet audience. Richard Wigmore