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 Recording of the Week  Music for Clarinet Trio from The Clarinotts

‘As we are family we don’t really have [the] boundaries of addressing problems in a polite way – we just face the truth!’ – thus spake the Berliner Philharmoniker’s principal clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer when my colleague David caught up with him before Christmas as he prepared for a rather special New Year’s Day and for the launch of a new recording which sees him joining forces with his older brother Daniel and father Ernst (both principal clarinettists with the Wiener Philharmoniker). Though this is their first project together on Deutsche Grammophon, The Clarinotts have been performing in public together for a decade (they’ve previously released recordings on Gramola and Cryston) and in private for…well, most of Andreas’s musical life (You can read his entire conversation with David here).

The Clarinotts
The Clarinotts

The family’s debut disc on The Yellow Label shares many of the virtues which made Andreas’s The Hungarian Connection (one of our Top Ten Discs of the Year, and my colleague Chris’s out-and-out favourite of 2015) such an engaging and joyous experience: like the earlier disc, it mixes late-Classical and early Romantic chamber works with new arrangements of music inspired by dance (and in this case also cinema and opera – the two sons spent much of their childhood listening to their father in the pit of the Vienna State Opera, and both now undertake a fair amount of operatic work in their own right).

As well as the natural rapport that comes from a lifetime of music-making together, the Ottensamers are also old hands at arranging and extemporising existing works to suit their forces, and so it’s hardly surprising that many of the tracks here have the same quasi-improvisatory quality that made The Hungarian Connection such a roaring success. I particularly enjoyed their take on Rossini’s La danza (emerging here from an ingeniously arranged introduction based on the pastoral section of the composer’s Guillaume Tell Overture, with a basset-horn taking the cor anglais solo): in the Ottensamer family’s hands, this quintessential Neapolitan song takes on a distinctly more cosmopolitan ambience, with shades of the czardas-like Mittel-European zing which stole the show in Stephan Koncz’s arrangements of folk-dances on that earlier disc.

It was also a pleasure to become acquainted with Ponchielli’s gorgeous Il convegno (almost a mini-opera without words, clocking in at just under quarter of an hour and depicting a tête-à-tête between two lovers), originally scored for two clarinets and small band and/or piano but given new life here in an arrangement for three instruments and the strings of the Wiener Virtuosen, of which Ottensamer Senior was a founder-member. Other stand-outs are the two filmic tracks, where all three players prove themselves to be eminently capable of letting their hair down: Luis Bonfá’s Manhã de Carnaval (from the 1959 film Orfeu Negro), and Béla Korényi’s Cinema I, a splendidly atmospheric extended riff on Basic Instinct which was dedicated to the Ottensamers and has become a firm favourite with them in concert (echoes of Gershwin, Piazzolla and even the odd Mahler Wunderhorn song leapt out to us listening in the office last night!).

2016 looks set to begin with a bang for the Ottensamers, then: not only do they have a major world premiere in the pipeline next week (when Andris Nelsons and the Wiener Philharmoniker will join them for the first performances of Ivàn Eröd’s concerto for three clarinets, also dedicated to the family), but hopefully this newsletter will reach you in time to catch them in the interval of the New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna, where they’ll be the subject of a short documentary including performances of two tracks featured on the new CD. And if you miss the boat this lunchtime, Sony will be releasing the entire concert (conducted by Mariss Jansons, in his third appearance on the Viennese New Year rostrum) on CD, DVD and Blu-ray later this month.

The Clarinotts

Ernst Ottensamer, Daniel Ottensamer and Andreas Ottensamer (clarinets), Wiener Virtuosen Streichensemble

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

New Year's Concert 2016 (CD)

ener Philharmoniker, Mariss Jansons

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

New Year's Concert 2016 (DVD)

ener Philharmoniker, Mariss Jansons

Available Format: DVD Video

New Year's Concert 2016 (Blu-ray)

ener Philharmoniker, Mariss Jansons

Available Format: Blu-ray