The four works on this release, all composed in the 1940s, embrace the lingering end of one musical tradition and the vigorous upsurge of another. Mellifluous, retrospective and playful, the Duet Concertino and Prelude to Capriccio were works of Richard Strauss’s Indian Summer – an old man’s refuge from the barbarism of war and its aftermath. What the public thought of them was incidental, even irrelevant. In the same decade, Aaron Copland and other younger American composers were reaching out, via radio, recordings and film, to a new mass audience. The European influence of Appalachian Spring and the Clarinet Concerto, though inescapable, was minimized in a populist, vernacular idiom that absorbed native folk music and jazz. Richard Stamp unites some of the finest instrumentalists from the UK and Europe in these performances – featuring celebrated orchestras the Academy of London and the Royal Northern Sinfonia with renowned Austrian soloists Ernst Ottensamer and Stepan Turnovsky. Stepan Turnovsky joined the Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in 1978 and has kept the position of Solo Bassoonist there since 1985, performing with conductors such as Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein, Karl Böhm, Carlos Kleiber amongst many others. The late Ernst Ottensamer was a former principal clarinettist at the Vienna Philharmonic and an avid performer of chamber music – founding numerous ensembles and collaborating with musicians such as Sir Simon Rattle, André Previn, Daniel Barenboim and Rudolf Buchbinder amongst others. In 2005 he found a clarinet trio with his sons Daniel and Andreas Ottensamer – themselves the Principal Clarinettists of the Vienna Philharmonic and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras. This present performance represents his last concerto recording.
It is for the two Strauss performances that I can offer an enthusiastic thumbs up. Ernest Ottensamer died suddenly in 2017 at the age of 61, and the Copland was his last concerto recording. That, too, adds to the value of this release. Signum deserves gratitude for saving all four performances from being lost and forgotten.