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CD Review

Works for Clarinet & Orchestra

Michael Collins, clarinet/basset clarinet
Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Michael Collins
Chandos CHAN10756
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I've got to figure out whose review I read that led me to purchase this and make a note to myself. The first thought that came to me was that I prefer concertos where the soloist is not the conductor. As a rule when the duties are shared it's like multi-tasking. Two thing get done half-assed instead of one. In a concerto (I wrote) there should be a tension between orchestra and soloist that is absent when the duties are shared. That is the case here.

Pass on the Mozart. Thea King did it better, with a basset clarinet, where she is joined by Jeffrey Tate and the English Chamber Orchestra. (Hyperion CDA66199). That music has a joy and flow to it, not treating Mozart like some metronomic mechanical muzak. Her sound is fruitier and darker (as is the orchestra) and I smiled at moments that passed by unnoticed in this recording.

If it ain't got that swing it don't mean a thing. Duke Ellington's phrase came to mind as I listened to the Copland. Sure enough, Benny Goodman does it better. Goodman had a natural feel for jazz whereas here was have someone for whom jazz of that period is obviously alien to. He would have profited if he'd listened to that recording. From what I hear Mr. Collins doesn't seem to have that Copland swing. Again, the dual role of conductor and soloist may have something to do with it especially since Copland was Goodman's accomplice.

Kats-Chernin (b. 1957) really should've named her piece Moondog Symphony. I happen to be a long time fan of the blind Vikings composer. Listening to this was like listening to a symphony he would've written. The disc is worth it for this piece alone, but maybe you can purchase just that part of the CD.

Of course if you've no idea who Moondog was then this is potentially meaningless and if you, further, don't know Phil Glass it is equally the context of no context. How about the music that should go with a REAL movie about Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass? I won't bother you with any biographical details about her because at this point I haven't bothered.

Addendum: a Chaplinesque nuance at moments. The Tramp. Movie music.

Post Script: A week later. Listening to music by Tarquino Merula (1600's…Monteverdi) and an epiphany…Moondog…so I revisited this music again and appreciated it more fully. Kaleidoscope of sound…both…if you can appreciate the context of these thoughts then this might be sufficient reason to purchase the disc since the other items suffer the fate of the good compared to the excellent… .

Copyright © 2015, Robert Stumpf II