Vivaldi - Martin Fröst (clarinet): CD

This review was published on: June 26th 2020

Martin Fröst (clarinet)
Concerto Köln
Sony Classical

‘What might Vivaldi have composed for the clarinet if it had been more fully developed and if he had had at his disposal a musician and a virtuoso as talented as Martin Fröst?’ Printed on the back cover of the CD, this new recording from the talented Swede attempts to provide an answer, but perhaps one that you might not expect.

Vivaldi was a pioneer in his use of single-reed instruments, writing for both the recorder-like chalumeau and newly invented two-key clarinet in five of his works. His famous oratorio aria ‘Veni, veni, me sequere fida’ from Juditha Triumphans includes an obbligato part for soprano chalumeau, performed on this recording in an arrangement for solo cello (taking the vocal line) and modern clarinet.

However, this is the only original single-reed music by Vivaldi on the disc. The real raison d’être of this project is the debut of three ‘new’ clarinet concertos, fashioned out of Vivaldi opera and oratorio arias by the skilful German arranger, Andreas N Tarkmann. Recorded with the period-instrument orchestra Concerto Köln, the slow movements are the real highlight. Moments where Fröst’s tender yet full-bodied tone emerges from complete silence show his impeccable control of the instrument – perhaps a more subtle side to his virtuosity than the high-octane displays many associate him with.

By design, Tarkmann keeps the clarinet writing within the limited range and register of the chalumeau, centred awkwardly on the throat notes of a modern clarinet. There are few moments where the clarinet line ventures outside these limits, including the occasional double-tongued run, but Fröst himself admits this came from him, not Tarkmann (see interview on page 16).

Overall, this recording sits somewhere between historically informed performance and a radically fresh, modern interpretation. The instrument Fröst uses is a case in point: a prototype Buffet clarinet made from old-style boxwood but with modern keywork and mouthpiece.

Historical politics aside, this is a thought-provoking project that will satisfy many clarinet players’ thirst to perform baroque music that is not just a straight transcription.

Sheet music will be available soon.

Michael Pearce

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The Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No. 3010228, whose registered office is at Flat 51, Parkview Apartments, 122 Chrisp Street, London, E14 6ET. Email: membership(@) Tel: 01642 769 558

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