Thursday, July 26, 2012

Castil-Blaze, Weber, Blasius: Music for Winds

If you have ever doubted the virtues of period instruments, listen to the copies of early 19th-century clarinets, horns and bassoons on this disc. With a double bass below, they create a wonderfully warm, richly enveloping sound. Audible but not intrusive breathing, chattering keys, and coloured, hand-stopped horn notes create strongly distinctive character, as well as a sense of immediacy – though I would have liked a touch more ‘presence’ between movements.

Mozzafiato is technically impressive: barely a flagging tongue throughout the yards of semiquavers for reed instruments, dazzling horns vying with them in sheer velocity. Its ensemble is polished, but not so slick that excitement is lost.

The music is for carefree hearing rather than concentrated listening. Weber’s Adagio and Rondo is the best crafted; Castil-Blaze, reportedly a pretty irresponsible plagiarist, here has some charming, original ideas. Blasius (new to the record catalogue) doesn’t quite merit the welcome accorded to him in clarinettist Charles Neidich’s notes; the three Suites overflow with alluring but underdeveloped ideas, often the mark of lesser composers. Every short movement, though, affords a passing delight – echoes, irrational phrase-lengths, and not least an additional tambourine at the very end, the player unacknowledged – a spare recording engineer, perhaps? --George Pratt, BBC Music Magazzine ****

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