Alexey Shor’s Clarinet Concerto and Beethoven 7 from the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra with Andreas Ottensamer and Daniel Raiskin


The first of Alexey Shor’s new works I’ve heard at the InClassica International Music Festival in Dubai was a fun entertaining diversion written for clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer.

Shor’s Clarinet Concerto possesses an often fiendish decorative solo line suspended above opulent orchestral scoring that leaps from one musical influence to another in a short space of time. Pastiche or imitation? Or is it, as suggested in the programme, neoclassicism for a contemporary classical audience?

The composer’s twist on contemporary classical is in itself thought-provoking. Its music which clearly appeals to the diaspora in the auditorium whose enthusiasm for Shor’s work is marked. His music is clearly accessible, written with enthusiasm, and intended to appeal to a specific audience.

Whilst there are some moments when melodic lines need developing, it’s evident in the score where Alexey’s heart beats the fastest as a creative. In the Clarinet Concerto in particular (perhaps more than any of the works I heard in Malta in 2019) Shor demonstrates a fascination with the mechanics of the orchestral sound, a love of analysing how that sound is produced, and a desire to recreate it in his own form. The resulting homage he creates is a series of vignettes or musical tropes which, in the case of the Clarinet Concerto are linked by one overriding criteria: a sense of fun.

In this way the Concerto is a reflection of Ottensamer and a lot of clarinet repertoire. There are hints of Mozart, Gershwin, and in the more tender best expanded second movement, hints of Brahms too. Much of this is down to the sincerity in Ottensamer’s assured stage presence on stage. There is a sense of the showman about him that steers a clear path away from awkward stiff court jester-look often observed when clarinettists appear at the front of the stage. This confidence in the moment permeates the sound produced giving credibility to the finished product.

In the second half of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra’s Dubai concert with conductor Daniel Raiskin, a prompt reading of Beethoven’s 7th symphony full of clear articulation in the strings, warm woodwind, and powerful brass. A mildly unsettling moment between adagio and allegro in the first movement when the woodwind appear to ‘fluff’ the transition highlighted a rare and unexpectedly loss of cohesion, though this was quickly rectified during the second repeat. The second movement felt a little faster than I’ve heard it before – more of a stroll to the bank than a funeral march. The lively third and joyously uplifting fourth movement spotlit the power and delight in the Slovak Phil: a highly versatile bass section. A real delight to watch and listen to.

InClassica International Music Festival is produced by the European Foudation for Support of Culture and SAMIT.