Eric Hoeprich / Michael Alexander Willens / Kölner Akademie

Bernhard Crusell: Klarinettenkonzerte

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Various works by the Finnish-born Swedish clarinetist and composer Bernhard Crusell have appeared on disc, most of them rescued from almost two centuries of obscurity. Situated during the years when the clarinet took on its modern form, they're certainly of interest to wind players. These three concertos, showing development in both technical range and structural sophistication over the 11 years spanned by the group, may show Crusell at his best, and the historical-instrument performance here is ideal. Crusell's style is conservative. His models are not only Mozart's clarinet music but even the relaxed wind works of the Mannheim School. He gained control over his expansive opening-movement structures as he went along, and, especially in the first two works on the disc, he found subtle ways of incorporating modern touches, such as the timpani strokes at the beginning of the Clarinet Concerto in B flat major, Op. 11, into his diatonic palette. The development sections in the long opening movements alight on tonally stable lyrical passages that could have come from Schubert. Dutch clarinetist Eric Hoeprich uses a copy of one of Crusell's own clarinets -- close to a modern instrument but with an edgier tone at the registral extremes that helps bring out passages written to exploit that new range -- and the Kölner Akademie ensemble also uses historical instruments. The disc is beautifully recorded, and everything conspires to bring out Crusell's quiet style, in which a methodical approach eventually yields many small beauties. Of most interest for listeners who enjoy the early Romantics, but recommended for any collection of wind music.

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