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WEBER: Clarinet Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 Concertino – Paul Meyer, clarinet & cond. l’Orch. De Chambre De Lausanne – MD&G

WEBER: Clarinet Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 Concertino, Op. 26 – Paul Meyer, clarinet & cond. l’Orch. De Chambre De Lausanne – Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm multichannel SACD MDG 940-1922-6 (also 2+2+2), 51:27 (4-1-16) *****: 

Classy hi-res recordings of the two Clarinet Concertos by Von Weber.

Just turned 50, French clarinetist Paul Meyer’s classy new recordings of Weber’s two Clarinet Concertos with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra eclipse his 1998 versions, for Denon with Günther Herbig conducting the Royal Philharmonic. In fact, this new recording, made in Lausanne’s Salle Métropole, eclipses most others and directly competes against Martin Fröst’s edgy version with the Tapiola Sinfonietta for BIS.

Meyer, like Fröst, applies his interpretive approach with a splendid, thrilling technique. But where his Swedish colleague’s virtuosity is quicksilver and quirky, Meyer’s is smoother, more poetic, more mellifluous without any thickening of the sound. And where Fröst offers an unconventional third work, an arrangement for clarinet and strings of Weber’s Clarinet Quintet, Op. 34, Meyer takes the conventional route with a charming performance of the charming Op.  26 Concertino.

Balancing the soloist against Weber’s rich orchestra is always a challenge for recording these concertos; it was best solved in the analogue days by a 1968 recording made by Gervase de Peyer with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Raphael Frühbeck de Burgos for EMI; it was solved less successfully (technically, not musically) by Karl Leister with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Raphael Kubelik on DGG in 1972.

MDG have it set up so that it works better as you increase the volume and realize the orchestra is more present than first realized, while the SACD opens up the space to make things really glorious in surround. And, at all levels and in all modes, as it should be, the sound of Meyer’s clarinet is simply gorgeous.

—Laurence Vittes

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