Benny Goodman

Benny Goodman Plays Classics

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The booklet for this release gives no recording dates and includes a description of jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman's pioneering activities in the classical field in the 1930s, when he recorded with the Budapest String Quartet and even commissioned a trio from Béla Bartók. The buyer might conclude that they came from the same period, but in fact they are later recordings, made in the mid-'50s, that have bounced around in a variety of packages ever since then. They're worth hearing, and the remastering on this round by the Musical Heritage Society is acceptable. For the newcomer to Goodman's classical recordings the earlier performances, despite dicey sound quality, are probably preferable; the Mozart Clarinet Quintet in A major, K. 581, lay easily under the clarinetist's fingers. Here he takes on the black-belt items in the clarinet chamber catalog: Brahms' late pieces of clarinet chamber music and Weber's Clarinet Quintet in B flat major, Op. 34, along with the lighter Beethoven Trio for piano, clarinet, and cello in B flat major, Op. 11. Goodman's tone in the hairier passages of the Brahms is not as sweet as what some other players produce, especially in the upper register, but all four of these works have a kind of forward drive that is rare elsewhere. The Brahms Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115, has a lighter, less dense quality overall than in almost any other recording of the work. Listeners are invited to speculate on the connection of these traits with Goodman's jazz background, and the two discs in this set are in every way valuable and interesting historical documents.

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