Nielsen Clarinet Concerto a Standout at Dramatic Seattle Symphony Concert

Pablo Rus Broseta
The SunBreak

Musical drama pervaded every part of the Seattle Symphony’s lunchtime concert Friday. It was described so in the notes and under the able direction of the orchestra’s associate conductor Pablo Rus Broseta, it lived up to the description. Two of the works were also performed on the Masterpiece series for the weekend: Haydn’s Symphony No. 49, aptly known as “La passione,” and Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, the “Unfinished,” surely the best-known work on the program.

The other two would have been unfamiliar to many in the audience. Mendelssohn’s “The Fair Melusina” Overture is not nearly as frequently performed as for instance his far better-known Overture to Rosamunde, yet it is a delight with its watery depictions of the heroine in her weekly transformation to water nymph, and the passion and distress of her husband who loses her when he follows to find where she goes.

The other work which to the best of my knowledge has not been performed by the SSO in at least a quarter century, was Carl Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto from 1928, with principal clarinetist Benjamin Lulich as soloist. Nielsen embarked on composing a concerto for each member of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet based in each player’s personality, but he only completed two, the other being for the flute, and both are excellent additions to the literature for each instrument.

The quintet’s clarinetist was clearly an argumentative type, easily angered at times but at others a warmly affable colleague and, as well, a superb instrumentalist. This all comes through in the one-movement, 24-minute concerto, where the soloist plays almost all the time. Sometimes lyrical and in harmony with the orchestra, at others in cutting opposition, the soloist plays all over his instrument including leaps of wide intervals at speed with a couple of virtuosic cadenzas.
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