“In allen Werken ist Fröst ein Meister von erlesensten Qualitäten – hinsichtlich Intonation, farbenreich makelloser Tonschönheit und lebendig pulsierendem Rhythmus ohnehin, aber eben gerade auch bezüglich der kontinuierlich atmenden Gestaltung, der sanglichen Phrasierungskunst, des Eindrucks spontaner Freiheit in der mätzchenfreien Hingabe an den Geist der jeweiligen Musik.” Klassik-Heute.de
Testifying to the multi-facetted talent of Martin Fröst as well as to the different responses that the clarinet has awakened in composers over the years, the present compilation brings together four concertante works in recordings that have all been previously released on separate discs. The opening work, Fröst’s fellow-Swede Anders Hillborg’s ‘Peacock Tales’, is the longest of the four, as well as being something of a calling card for Fröst. It was composed for him in 1998, and on his initiative it incorporates choreographical elements and lighting effects when performed in concert. Hillborg has since made several versions of the work, and Martin Fröst has performed it numerous times worldwide in its different incarnations. The disc Dances to a Black Pipe (BIS-1863) includes a shorter chamber version for clarinet, piano and strings, but the present recording is of the original version, with large symphony orchestra. If Peacock Tales focuses on the soloist, the opposite might be said of the Danish composer Vagn Holmboe’s Concerto No.3 from 1942. The work is one in a series of 13 concertos for one or more solo instruments and small orchestra, and it would seem that the composer, by not mentioning the solo instrument in the titles of these works, wished to signal a particular concern in regards to the relationship between soloist and orchestra. Writing about her On a Distant Shore, subtitled ‘poem for clarinet and chamber orchestra’, the Swedish composer Karin Rehnqvist discusses the same problem more directly: ‘How does one arrive at a relationship between soloist and orchestra which is interesting and musically rewarding for everyone: soloist, orchestra and audience?’ Such concerns were probably of less concern to Finnish-Swedish composer and clarinet virtuoso Bernhard Crusell. Active during the beginning of the 19th century, Crusell is today mainly known for his clarinet concertos and clarinet quartets, but here Martin Fröst’s clarinet jauntily guides us through one of his earliest works: Introduction, Theme and Variations on a Swedish Air – the air in question being a drinking song popular at the time.