The mutual back-scratching between clarinetist David Singer and composer Robert Livingston Aldridge that goes on in the booklet (English only) of this Naxos release is a bit annoying, but the pairing of clarinet concertos delivers. Aaron Copland's clarinet concerto of 1948, composed for Benny Goodman, is among the most popular works in the canon of clarinet music. It's in Copland's accessible, tonal style, and naturally enough it harks back to the composer's jazz-influenced works of the 1920s. Although he is probably one of America's most-loved composers, Copland's iconic style has always been difficult for other composers of concert music (although certainly not for those of film music) to follow. There are other good recordings of the clarinet concerto (those by Richard Stoltzman are worth seeking out), but the real attraction here is the Aldridge clarinet concerto of 2004, which manages the trick of clearly referring to Copland without aping him. The jazz influence in the outer movements of both works is introduced as a contrasting element to syncopated but non-jazz material providing the basement for the movement. But Aldridge's concerto is looser and more diverse, with hints of klezmer (and in the finale even polka) music at times. Aldridge's slow movement is one that clarinetists are going to salivate over, and it's completely different in conception from Copland's rising cadenza: Aldridge offers a long, lyrical melody growing out of Ivesian nocturne material. The final wrinkle in the album is also extremely effective; Aldridge's Samba for clarinet and string quartet (1993) picks up on the Brazilian touches in the last movement of the Copland concerto. The playing of the innovative A Far Cry Orchestra and the sound quality, from Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA, are both draws, but the samba was recorded elsewhere and doesn't fit with the overall sound environment. Recommended for anyone who loves Copland and wishes there were more contemporary music related to his style.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim