A review of BPO Live in Concert 2014: Audio Notes by William Nichols, International Clarinet

With more recordings available of Mozart’s K. 622 concerto than you can shake a reed at, it is easy to become somewhat blasé about new releases, although the greatness of the 18th-century’s most significant wind concerto dispels any complacency in this listener.  There has been a generous number of recordings during this past year or so, and among the fray, excluding Martin Fröst’s (reviewed in these pages in March 2014), are three notable releases from Italy and the United States which for various reasons may be of interest to our readers. These productions have much to recommend them and are live recordings, all performed on the extended-range basset clarinet.

We are now fortunate to have available (and overdue) a recording of Mozart’s masterpiece from American Ricardo Morales, principal clarinetist of the Philadelphia Orchestra and former principal of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra who needs little introduction to I.C. A. members and ClarinetFest® attendees in recent years.  Recorded in performance in October of 2013 with the Buffalo Philharmonic conducted by JoAnn Falletta, the clarinetist delivers a performance which features brisk outside movements and a poignant “Adagio.”  Morale’s musicality, legendary technical skills, and his weighty, darkly colored tone and even control are well evident here.  His flawless playing is rich in subtle phrasing, articulation, and dynamic expression.  The extended-range notes, unlike some recorded examples, are smoothly integrated into the clarinet timbre, producing an especially rich homogeneous and dynamically balanced sound, making a strong case for the use of the basset clarinet.

K. 622 is not one of Mozart’s light, elegant works of casual diversion.  It is appropriately given here a full-bodied lusty performance by soloist and orchestra, which seems to use a  relatively large compliment of strings.  The Buffalo orchestra provides a polished and energetic performance.  This is not Mozart for the faint of heart, and it is a world-class performance from a world-class clarinetist.

The recorded sound from the acoustically fine Kleinhans Hall is effective, presenting the clarinet and orchestra with quite natural timbres, generally well balanced.  Even though the balance seems  natural for a live concert, some listeners (probably clarinetists) would like to hear the soloist placed a bit more forward in the mix.

This BPO Live in Concert release is a two-disc production which also presents, under the direction of Ms. Falletta, the Dvořák Symphony No. 6 and the Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 3,  with piano soloist Philippe Bianconi.  It is from BEAU FLEUVE RECORDS  610708-094944.  Go to www.bpo.org/shop