Richard Stoltzman and Michael Tilson Thomas made an outstanding team for this recording. Stoltzman's tone is often the object of debate, but in this album, it works wonderfully. The jazz influences in all of these pieces call for a brighter, and (for lack of a better word) looser sound, which Stoltzman can pull off with flair. He does an excellent job of making the opening section of the Copland silky and dream-like.
The bravado and virtuosity in the cadenza are fitting, as is the occasional stretch or pause. It sounds almost improvised, which is what Copland was going for in this very difficult section. The orchestra (directed by Tilson Thomas) is also excellent - sparkling one moment, incisive the next.
The rest of the album is a collection of pieces by other American composers of the 20th century. "Goodbye" is an emotional memorial of Benny Goodman, the Bernstein "Sonata" is an interesting expansion of the work for clarinet and piano. Look out for the opening of "West Side"... it has startled me more than once when I wasn't paying attention! And the "Three Preludes" at the end are, again, an interesting expansion of the work for piano.
I can't say that I've heard a better performance of the Copland, so this album is worth it just for that. But, the other pieces are fun to listen to as well and nicely round out this album. K. Peters
1. Concerto for Clarinet by Aaron Copland 1947-1948
2. Goodbye in Memory of Benny by Gordon Hill Jenkins
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano by Leonard Bernstein 1941-1942
4. Andantino; Vivace e leggiero
6. Promenade "Walking the dog" by George Gershwin
7. Porgy and Bess: Bess, you is my woman now by George Gershwin
8. Short Story by George Gershwin
Three Preludes by George Gershwin
9. Prelude #1: Allegro ben ritmato e deciso
10. Prelude #2: Andante con motoe poco rubato
11. Prelude #3: Allegro ben ritmato e deciso
London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Eric Stern (Michael Tilson Thomas on #1&2)
Richard Stoltzman (clarinet)
Recorded November 18, 1992 and May 8-9, 1993 at Abbey Road Studios, London, UK