Sarah Williamson

Sarah Williamson Plays Copland & Finzi

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Winsome young British clarinetist Sarah Williamson offers a fresh British-American program here, with Aaron Copland's Clarinet Concerto, commissioned in 1947 by Benny Goodman, and Gerald Finzi's Clarinet Concerto, composed just two years later. Copland wasn't inspired by British pastoralism, but the connection makes sense: the use of musical space to define imagined landscapes has its roots in French impressionism and branches that can be traced to Britain and America. Nor does the jazz flavor of Copland's concerto invalidate the comparison; what gives the work its peculiar charm is its combination of Copland's simpler and immediately accessible style of the 1930s and early '40s with jazz, as if the composer was casting a nostalgic eye back to his early flirtation with jazz. The first movement especially has a lovely melancholy tint that's unique in Copland's music. Williamson delivers a perfectly confident, rather low-key reading of this movement that catches its emotional tenor, and the tuneful Finzi, with a hint of suppressed nervousness, also suits her well. The specifically jazz-oriented passages in the Copland feel pushed out of shape and are not quite as successful. Nor do the orchestral contributions add much to the overall effect. Finzi's Romance for strings is a murky little work that doesn't fit the pastoral theme, and the version of Copland's Appalachian Spring is an odd one, played in the original scoring for 13 instruments but trimmed down to the eight movements of the familiar orchestral suite. Britain's Orchestra of the Swan under David Curtis attempts with this disc, and others of the same series, to expose worthwhile new musicians, and there is no doubt that Williamson is one of these. Booklet notes are in English and French.

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