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ClassicsOnline Home » SPOHR, L.: Clarinet Concerto No. 4 / NIELSEN, C.: Clarinet Concerto / DEBUSSY, C.: Première rapsodie (Grammenos, Vienna Radio Symphony, Rasilainen)
Outstanding performances by this rising star!
I had never heard of the 23-year old young clarinetist, Dionysis Grammenos, from Greece. I must say I'm pretty impressed. Grammenos is from Athens and studied at the Liszt School of Music. His tone is mellow and supple and his technique is facile and smooth.
This program is a very tricky one and one in which there are some ways to get trapped into an absence of musicality. Dionysis plays beautifully and does not take the bait with tempo or articulation. The Spohr 4th, for example, is written for A clarinet and the first movement, could be played "too fast" and with staccato tonguing everywhere. When played that way it is a work that exudes difficulty but maybe musicality. Grammenos takes the whole work, including the Spanish-influence finale, in a very impressive pace and with suitable articulations but one that emphasizes the melody and the line within the pyro-technics. All four of the Spohr concerti are hard enough without losing the beauty and violin-like gymnastics that exemplify Spohr's writing.
The Nielsen Concerto, also for A clarinet, has similar issues. Nielsen works are noted for a tenuously balanced tonal center and some very frenetic vacillation between dark, moody melodies and some wildly propulsive passages. Such is the case with his Symphonies, his Quintet, his Flute Concerto and the Clarinet Concerto. The concerto has long been one of those clarinet pieces that absolutely requires a well-trained technical proficient player. However, there are ample recordings out there wherein the soloist has SO much technique that this piece begs "showing" off - speed, staccatissimo, loud, etc. There is a place for the wildly impressive interpretation of this piece but Grammenos again offers a more refined and, ultimately, attractive performance. In fact, I know players who won't do the Nielsen because it seems 'rough' or even 'ugly.' I would suggest that this recording may be a great first exposure to this piece for these same reasons. Aside from my teacher, the first version I heard of this masterwork was Drucker's. I really do like Grammenos' approach. In both of these upper level clarinet masterworks, the Vienna Radio Symphony under Finnish conductor Ari Rasilainen play very well with a great sensitivity to the style.
The Debussy "Premiere Rapsodie" was originally written for clarinet and piano, as a competition piece; but it is hardly ever heard that way any more. Debussy's own orchestration is so characteristically lush that most clarinetists can't wait to play it with an orchestra. The piano version is still suitably attractive and Grammenos and pianist Karina Sposobina play with a lovely symbiosis.more....
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SPOHR, L.: Clarinet Concerto No. 4 / NIELSEN, C.: ...