Liquid sounds of a master soloist
By Ken Smith
Published: June 2006 issue, Gramophone Magazine
Stylistically the most common musical tongue – unsurprisingly, given the instrument and the age of the composers – is jazz. From the percussive drive of Daniel James Perlongo’s Sunburst (1995) to the playful spontaneity of Gordon Goodwin’s Paraph (1996), Stoltzman and the Warsaw National PO face various post-Gershwin challenges in expressing the essence of jazz, rather than merely its stylistic surface, in symphonic terms. Coming between those cheerful extremes is Keith Lay’s unapologetically emotional Earth Caoine (1995), an extended cathartic wail of a piece essentially grieving for the environmental concerns of the planet. The remaining works, Anthony Iannoccone’s Concertante (1995) and Andrew Stiller’s Procrustean Concerto (1994), offer a few contrasts of their own, essentially pitting Iannaccone’s contrapuntal sense (which at its best is almost worthy of Hindemith) against Stiller’s visceral rhythmic excitement (at times sounding as if he’s channeling Stravinsky by way of Schnittke).
How all these pieces hold together, to say nothing of actually reinforcing each other’s strengths, owes a great deal to Stoltzman himself. Rather than merely showing off his brilliant technique, the clarinetist reaches deep within the music’s soul, becoming the aural focal point while largely disappearing into the piece itself. The spotlight is always properly focused, and never too bright, making it especially easy for listeners to find their way. Ken Smith