NIELSEN; DEBUSSY; FRANÇAIX Clarinet Concertos
‘A clarinet can sound as hysterical as – pardon me – a woman.’ Irmlind Capelle’s booklet-note quotes Carl Nielsen’s provocative description of the instrument, which the composer also likened to ‘screaming like a tramcar on poorly greased rails’. Nielsen’s 1928 concerto opens Belarussian Vladimir Soltan’s entertaining disc, which contains a lively trio of virtuoso works composed during the 20th century.
In the Nielsen, Soltan is up against stiff competition, not least from star names such as Martin Fröst and Sabine Meyer, but holds his own in a pugnacious reading. His sinewy tone suits this knotty work and his playing – scrupulously observed dynamics and precisely tongued staccatos – is impressive. Soltan is superb in the terrifying cadenzas, especially his lightning leaps between registers in the third ‘movement’ (tr 3, 4'59"). José Luiz Gomez and the Hamburg SO provide keen support, particularly the first bassoon and the tenacious snare drum.
Debussy’s Première Rhapsodie began life as an examination piece for the Paris Conservatoire but took on a concert life of its own. It is sinuous and sexy – the clarinet equivalent of the flute in Debussy’s Faune. Soltan could afford to be a little more sensuous here, revelling in the languour more. He excels, however, in the larky 1967 concerto by Jean Françaix, ducking and diving through the first movement with insouciant ease. Everything about this concerto is fun, the clarinet even hopping, skipping and trilling through the ‘slow movement’. The Allegrissimo finale finds Soltan strutting down the boulevard in finest dandy mode, making Françaix’s ‘aerial acrobatics’ sound easy. A fun ending to a fine disc.