Friday, July 15, 2011

Crusell, champion of the clarinet

Twenty years ago, Emma Johnson's recording of the three Crusell clarinet concertos caused quite a stir. Who was this composer, who had written some of the most beautiful concertos of all time for the instrument? Bernhard Henrik Crusell (1775-1838) is now recognized as Finland's most important composer before Sibelius. A master clarinet player himself (he introduced the Mozart concerto to the Scandinavian audiences), his best works are for that instrument: three gorgeous clarinet quartets and three beautiful concertos - in both cases, they would qualify for my top 10 in that genre, outranking the works by the likes of von Weber and Spohr. Style-wise, these are firmly rooted in Mozart's classicism, but still with their own sound. The Naxos CD I selected brings together the three clarinet concertos in excellent performances by Per Billman and the Uppsala University Chamber Orchestra under Gerard Korsten. A real treasure troves of hauntingly beautiful melodies. Perfect to listen to with all attention, but perfect as background music as well. Most warmly recommended.