Fairytale stuff from the RSNO and Sian Edwards, and a virtuosic first instalment from Karolos
For the dedicated home listener, just keeping up with the 90 concerts broadcast live from the Proms is a challenge, though the BBC website and daytime repeats help us catch up during the long haul to September. If you missed Francesco Piemontesi’s limpid account of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 27 in B flat major, K595 last weekend, find it on iPlayer. It’s gorgeous.
When not glued to the radio, I’ve been listening to new recordings of some altogether smaller-scale music. First, The Princess & the Bear (Hyperion), on which the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Sian Edwards bring us a neglected work by Richard Strauss, his Duet-Concertino for clarinet and bassoon, a beauty and the beast tale in which a princess, represented by Sarah Watts’ beautifully lyrical clarinet, dances with a bear – Laurence Perkins’s balletic bassoon. It sounds twee, but Strauss was making a point. Written in 1947, his seemingly incompatible characters learn to accept one another and find a happy coexistence, an allegory just as valid today as it was after the second world war. These two fine players are joined by the pianist Martin Roscoe for sparkling performances of Beethoven’s Trio in E flat, Op 38 and Glinka’s Trio Pathétique in D minor.
Altogether sparer is the often astringent but always interesting chamber music of Stephen Dodgson. Karolos, the eminent UK ensemble, is setting out on an exploration of Dodgson’s work on the Naxos label, beginning with his string trios and works for solo violin, solo viola and solo cello. Dodgson (1924-2013) echoed the baroque in his use of ornamentation, variation and intricate displays of virtuosity, so that his Sonatina in B minor for solo violin, expressively played here by Harriet Mackenzie, is both a tribute to Bach and a statement of his own individuality. Similarly, the Partita for solo cello takes a venerable form and gives it a 20th-century facelift, its exuberance brilliantly handled by Graham Walker. Sarah-Jane Bradley also impresses in the complex and dark Caprice after Puck for solo viola. These players bookend their virtuosic recital with two forceful, at times disquieting string trios from 1951 and 1964.