Bernard Walton

Mozart: Clarinet Concerto; Brahms: Clarinet Quintet

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A good orchestral musician -- even a great orchestral musician -- does not always translate into being a great soloist when thrust to the front of the orchestra. In this recording of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, Bernard Walton appears as soloist with the Philharmonia Orchestra under the early direction of Herbert von Karajan. The Philharmonia Orchestra is also one of the two orchestras (the London Philharmonic being the other) with whom Walton played for most of his career. His performance is what one would expect from a great musician -- impeccable control over his sound, brilliant dynamic contrasts, precise rhythm, and a thorough understanding of the music at hand. Yet Walton's performance is still not very soloistic and apart from the eerie stillness he achieves at the beginning of the second movement, does not distinguish itself from other performances. The Brahms Clarinet Quintet is quite a different story. Here, Walton's ability to blend his sound into the ensemble creates a wonderfully intimate chamber music atmosphere. Apart from some intonation difficulties in the upper strings, this recording provides listeners with an introspective and musically mature interpretation of one of Brahms' final compositions.

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