Phoenix in Flight

Richard Stoltzman / Kirk Trevor

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Phoenix in Flight Review

by James Manheim

This disc is something less than a unified, brand-new release, despite the Phoenix in Flight title and fresh graphics, but it's also more than a reissue. Phoenix in Flight is a collection of performances recorded by famed clarinetist Richard Stoltzman with conductor Kirk Trevor and the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra on various occasions between 2002 and 2005. The program doesn't entirely hang together; Weber's Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 74, is a bit jarring coming on the heels of Debussy's Première Rhapsodie. But many of the individual moments do this virtuoso performer proud. The notes rightly tout the Duetto for clarinet and double bass by Giovanni Bottesini as a virtuoso accomplishment, with the difficult problem of balance between these disparate instruments made to seem almost effortless. The Bottesini is a rare enough find, and the disc is also enhanced by other unusual items, including a cadenza by Ferruccio Busoni incorporated into the Weber Concertino for clariet and orchestra in C minor, Op. 26, and a lovely transcription of Tchaikovsky's piano Herbstlied for clarinet and string quartet by Toru Takemitsu, quite different in effect from the occasionally heard saxophone transcription of the same work. The slow movement of the Weber concerto supplies an excellent example of Stoltzman's uncanny control at the low end of his dynamic range, and there's an X factor throughout that draws the listener in thanks to Stoltzman's obvious enthusiasm for the music. A nice find for Stoltzman lovers and wind players.

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