WORKS: Clarinet Concerto in A, K622
PERFORMER: Sabine Meyer (clarinet, basset clarinet); Berlin PO/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 56832 2
This is Sabine Meyer’s second recording for EMI of the great Mozart Concerto. As in the first, made with the Dresden Staatskapelle and Hans Vonk in 1990, she uses a basset clarinet (not, as EMI says, a basset-horn), allowing her the extra low notes Mozart originally intended; and she adopts unusually fast tempi in all three movements. The main differences in this live (though applause-less) recording are an even greater degree of instrumental refinement, a little extra ornamentation, and, crucially, the greater attack and crispness of the Berlin Philharmonic, which suit Meyer’s interpretation better than the more mellow Dresden sound. It’s not that she ignores the shadows which fall across this late work; more that they are thrown into sharper relief by the brightness of their surroundings, so even the moments of hesitancy and pathos are heightened.
In the studio recordings on the rest of the disc, Debussy’s supple Rhapsody is well matched with Takemitsu’s equally fluid Fantasma/Cantos of 1991. In both works, the orchestra lays down a velvet carpet of sound, and Meyer responds with playing of great subtlety of colour and expression. If you would rather have the Takemitsu in the context of other works of his, the RCA recording by the work’s first soloist, Richard Stoltzman, remains highly recommendable; just as, if you prefer the traditional pairing of the Mozart Concerto and Quintet, you can still rely on the justly celebrated Hyperion disc featuring Thea King. But, for me, Meyer, the BPO and Abbado now set the standard in both works. Anthony Burton