SCO - Weber: Wind Concertos - The Arts Desk

Flamboyant wind soloists don't have that many opportunities to show off. Horn players are relatively well served by Mozart and Strauss. Bassoonists have Stravinsky's orchestral output, a concerto by Mozart and not much else, apart from this work by Carl Maria von Weber. There are moments in each of the concertante pieces collected on this vividly recorded Linn disc where you could almost be listening to transcriptions of vocal music. Weber's unstoppable ability to write singable tunes always far overrides his occasionally clunky musical structures. When you hear Peter Whelan play the Bassoon Concerto, you'll forgive Weber anything; his is such an expressive, plangent sound. Weber's effervescent last movement will raise a smile, but the unruffled, tender Adagio is a charmer.

Better known are the two clarinet works, both hugely entertaining. The C minor Concertino, lasting barely nine minutes, feels fresher than its more expansive sibling. Both are dispatched with wit and fire by Maximiliano Martín. Alec Frank-Gemmil's performance of the fiendish, near-unplayable Concertino for Horn takes countless cheeky liberties with Weber's already twisty solo line, but only stony-faced purists would object. We'd all do the same if we could play as well as this. Frank-Gemmil's projection of the mad chordal passage in the cadenza is jaw-dropping, as are his acrobatics in the subsequent Polonaise. This is a beguiling CD; feelgood music of the best sort, sweetly accompanied by Alexander Janicek's Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

The Arts Desk
01 December 2012