Caprices and Laments - Clarinet concertos by Nielsen, Copland and MacMillan. © 2021 Delphian Records Ltd

CD Spotlight

Engrossingly Moving

Works for clarinet and orchestra by Nielsen, Copland and MacMillan, heard by GERALD FENECH

'A challenging programme, superbly presented and recorded.'


The historic achievement of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A, K 622, composed in late 1791, when the composer was in his death throes, changed and influenced many subsequent composers who contributed to the genre. This CD focuses on three twentieth century pieces that might not be in the style of the Salzburg genius, but are nonetheless highly important to the development of the clarinet concerto as we know it today.

Carl Nielsen (1865-1931), Denmark's national composer, wrote his concerto in the summer of 1928, after he had finished his groundbreaking cycle of six symphonies. The last, the Sinfonia semplice, which is a far cry from simplicity, had perplexed listeners by its eccentric and unpredictable mood swings, and the Clarinet Concerto did not fare much better. The first performance, on 14 September 1928, was a private affair. This was followed by the first public performance on 11 October of that same year which, unfortunately, created a divided opinion among the critics. Many found it severely objective, complicated and often angry, but despite its rarefied and bracing air coupled with an intriguing emotional ambiguity, this was to become the hallmark of Nielsen's ability to create a piece that is both hysterical and yet mild at the same time. This concerto was to be the composer's last great orchestral work before his death in 1931.

Listen — Nielsen: Allegretto un poco (Clarinet Concerto)
(track 4, 0:02-0:58) ℗ 2021 Delphian Records Ltd :

Aaron Copland (1900-1990), America's most prolific composer of the twentieth century, wrote his Clarinet Concerto for the famous clarinettist Benny Goodman between 1947-48. Although composed two decades after Nielsen's, the work similarly bridges stylistic and expressive contrasts. Indeed, it brings a vein of lyrical sadness together with the energy of mid-century popular idiom from both the USA and Brazil. Premiered on 6 November 1950, in a radio broadcast, the concerto has also a strong influence of Stravinsky's neoclassical idiom. Indeed, Copland was a huge admirer of the elder composer.

Listen — Copland: Slowly and expressivel (Clarinet Concerto)
(track 1, 0:02-1:00) ℗ 2021 Delphian Records Ltd :

Tuirreadh, the Gaelic word for a lament or requiem, by James MacMillan (born 1959), is a single-minded outpouring of grief, raising instruments to an almost vocal quality of expression in an anguished cry for the victims of the Piper Alpha oil-rig fire (6 July 1988) which claimed 167 lives. Premiered in June 1991, the version on this disc is an arrangement for clarinet and string orchestra made by the composer in 1995.

Listen — MacMillan: Tuireadh
(track 8, 20:35-21:34) ℗ 2021 Delphian Records Ltd :

All three works strongly cover the gamut of human emotion, drawing from Martín performances that are engrossingly moving throughout. Macías Navarro and his Tenerife players lend sensitive support from beginning to end. A challenging programme, superbly presented and recorded.

Copyright © 10 February 2021 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta









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