WAM: the new rock’n’roll 

…. well not quite. But think back to Artur Schnabel’s zany cadenzas for the 21st and 24th Concertos, Friedrich Gulda pushing the solo line of 21’s Andante off the beat (so it sounds like finger-clicking jazz), Glenn Gould racing headlong through various early sonatas or holding some of the later ones in suspense, or Nikolaus Harnoncourt halting suspensefully at the centre of the 40th Symphony’s finale.

Memorable enough for me to recall off the top of me head as no doubt Martin Fröst’s striking Swedish Chamber Orchestra Jupiter Symphony will be for others, programmed as part of Martin Fröst Mozart: Ecstasy and Abyss on Sony 196587722524, 2 cds, c£13.99) which reflects Mozart’s dichotomous experiences in Leipzig and Prague towards the end of his life. The Jupiter’s initial ‘call to arms’ is greeted with a momentary pause before Fröst opens the trap doors for the Allegro vivace to race over hill and dale according to the dictates of applied dynamics. It’s exciting but will get some getting used to. Not however as much as the staccato quaver chords that fall in the second and fourth bars of the Andante cantabile second movement and which are played just so, like cannon shots during a warm (ie muted) embrace. Look at the score and you see that Fröst is doing what’s asked of him, and those ‘shots’ make even more sense later on in the movement. 

Fröst is of course best known as a superb clarinettist and I was delighted to encounter his playing of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, music that can all-too-easily fall into ‘laid-back listening mode’ if its manner of performance is too relaxed. Fröst and his Swedish collaborators keep on the ball so the concerto-like, ie dialogic, aspects of the work remain in the forefront of your mind. Fröst plays a basset-clarinet, which is in essence similar to the soprano clarinet but longer and with additional keys to enable playing several additional lower notes.

This is a brilliantly planned programme. There are two symphonies and two concertos, each of the latter preceded by a nicely sung aria involving the featured instrument, the 25th Piano Concerto (Lucas Debarge) by the concert aria “Ch’io mi scordi di te? … Non temer, amato bene” (Will I forget you? … Fear not, beloved), sung by soprano Elin Rombo – one of the greatest compositions of the genre – and, prior to the Clarinet Concerto, “Parto, ma tu ben mio,” from La Clemenza di Tito with a basset-clarinet obbligato written for the composer’s friend Anton Stadler, for whom Mozart had only weeks before created his Clarinet Concerto.

You might daub the 25th Piano Concerto Mozart’s Emperor: he surely never wrote a more celebratory concerto, and Debarge, whose incident-packed manner of interpreting Mozart recalls that of the late Friedrich Gulda, conspires with Fröst to relish every bar, cavorting playfully one moment, or suggesting the world of song in the next. The second CD opens with a keenly pulsating account of the Prague Symphony where the concluding presto is super-fast and harbours numerous shock fortissimos. So if you nod off while listening, Fröst’s Prague sojourn will wake you up with a bang – literally! Great to listen to but make sure that you have Szell, Walter, Böhm, Karajan, Klemperer and others nearby, if only for sanity’s sake.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s