Jon Manasse / Gerard Schwarz / Seattle Symphony Orchestra

Mozart, Spohr: Clarinet Concertos

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Classical repertoire need not be played on original 18th century instruments to sound appropriate to its era, as this marvelously musical recording from Harmonia Mundi amply demonstrates. Indeed, in the introductory measures of the Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the listener may momentarily mistake this for a period performance, thanks to the lightness of the strings and the generally delicate quality of the ensemble's sound. But the Seattle Symphony, directed by Gerard Schwarz, is every bit a modern orchestra with standard instrumentation, so the refined sound is obviously due to the conductor's careful choices and to the gentle nature of clarinetist Jon Manasse's manner of interpretation, which lends both the Mozart concerto and the Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 57, by Louis Spohr a faintly nostalgic, even pensive quality. Both performances are historically informed in the broad sense of the term, for Manasse and Schwarz are clearly aware of period practice and deliver the concertos with the elegance and warmth that is associated with late Classicism, yet hold back from any forceful exertions that might suggest early Romanticism. Manasse is prominently positioned in the recordings, so all the notes and nuances of his intonation are audible, and the accompaniment never overwhelms his playing. In terms of overall sound, the clarinet and orchestra are well-balanced, and the acoustics of the auditorium are sufficiently resonant to give the recording a spacious, natural feeling.

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