Laurence Perkins / Sarah Watts / Martin Roscoe

The Princess & the Bear

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Even without its other attractions, this lovely album of works for clarinet and bassoon is a must for anyone who loves the music of Richard Strauss, for it contains what is really the premiere of an important late work of that master. The Duet-Concertino of 1947 was never published, and, without the insights of the current recording, did not seem to make much sense. It is not too much to say, as bassoonist and annotator Laurence Perkins suggests, that "in a sense, one can regard this piece as Richard Strauss's final tone poem." Perkins, clarinetist Sarah Watts, and conductor Sian Edwards, leading the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, connect this work to a fairy tale derived from "Beauty and the Beast": there is a princess (the clarinet), at first discomfited by a bear (the bassoon), but eventually falling into a kind of rapport with it. The work is fascinating in that it puts the wonderful, autumnal lyricism of the Four Last Songs into a more extended musical form. Sample the opening Andante moderato movement, with its disjointed relationship between the clarinet and the bassoon, and you'll likely be drawn in, especially inasmuch as Edwards and the orchestra grasp the music's gentle humor. The other two works also feature the clarinet-and-bassoon combination and feel like princess-and-bear interactions in their own right. The Beethoven Trio in E flat major, Op. 38, is also hardly played. It's an adaptation by Beethoven himself of the Septet, Op. 20, which, odd as it seems today, was one of Beethoven's most popular works during his lifetime. The reduced version may actually be preferable to the original. No more common is the Trio pathétique in D minor of Glinka. Written during the composer's student years in Italy, it has little trace of Russian influence, but it is a more than competent essay in the post-Classical style of Hummel and Weber, with perhaps a dash of Donizetti. The sound, from Henry Wood Hall in Glasgow, is mismatched between the orchestral Duet-Concertino and the chamber pieces, but even this is attractive. This is a program that hangs together so well that it justifies the mixed media. An exceptional sleeper of an album.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Duet-Concertino TrV293 for clarinet and bassoon with string orchestra and harp
1 06:54 Amazon
2 03:52 Amazon
3 11:03 Amazon
Trio in E flat major Op. 38
4 10:12 Amazon
5 07:26 Amazon
6 03:26 Amazon
7 07:20 Amazon
8 03:06 Amazon
9 07:42 Amazon
Trio pathétique in D minor
10 04:56 Amazon
11 03:15 Amazon
12 04:47 Amazon
13 02:11 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick