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The Arts Music Lounge, Jonas Frølunds Excellent Adventure

August 11, 2023

Lynn Renee Bayley

The Arts Music Lounge (US)

Jonas Frølunds Excellent Adventure

Jonas Lyskjær Frølund is a young Danish clarinetist, bom in 1996. who studied with John Kruse before moving on to the Royal Danish Academy of Music and, later, the Paris Conservatoire. All avenues in the classical world are open to you when you have the money to pursue your dream, and Frølund has done so.

To his credit, however, Frølund is one of those rare adventurous souls who does not stop with the standard repertoire but includes a generous amount of 20th and 2 lst-century works as this recital so amply proves. In fact, the Mette Nielsen piece for bassoon clarinet was composed for him.

And Frølund, in addition to being a virtuoso on his instrument, also has something that most classical clarinetists do not have, and that is an interesting timbre. He seems to combine the biting, acerbic upper range of, say, Benny Goodman with the rich middle range of Artie Shaw and the rich low range of Jimmie Noone. If the classical reader is left scratching his or her head wondering why I am comparing him to jazz clarinetists, it is because jazz clarinetists have done far more to expand the tonal and emotional range of their instrument than most classical clarinetists, past and present, all rolled into one. (I would go so far as to say that the same is true of the trombone.) Indeed, Frølund's performance of Stravinsky's 3 Pieces for Clarinet Solo reminded me strongly of Goodman's recording of the same composer's Ebony Concerto.
Indeed, the way he plays the third of these pieces has some of that Yiddish "freylach" sound that Goodman often employed in both his jazz and classical performances. I loved it!
Moreover, he is a master of not only shifting dynamics but actually changing the timbre of his instrument for coloristic purposes, as is evident in his extra¬ ordinary performance of the slow but interesting Lontanamente - Fragments af a Waltz by Bent Sørensen. This is a performance that, as we used to say in the old days, reveals "art that conceals art:' He makes playing this piece in this manner sound easy, but it is anything but. He just has such perfect control of his instrument that you think it's not hard to play. He similarly overcomes the tricky chromatic passages, reed buzzes, and humming along with his own playing written into Mette Nielsen's Alone for solo clarinet. Tue music of Alone, the interesting effects aside, is somewhat simple on the surface, consisting of a slow melody that goes in and out of tonality. It is not the kind of piece that "speaks for itself;' however; it requires the kind of virtuosity that Frølund possesses to make it work, and this he does. He is, quite simply, a wizard of his instrument; I've not heard his like in the 58 years I've been listening to classical music, and I've heard a lot of clarinetists, including Benny Goodman, in person.

Yet as much as his technical virtuosity dazzles, one is always brought deep into the music he plays because he imbues everything with tremendous feeling. A perfect example is the extended clarinet solo from Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End af Time. Not even the great Richard Stoltzman played it with as much feeling, not to mention such an extraordinary range of instrumental color, as Frølund plays it here.

Well worth hearing. This young man really has the chops, as they say!
© 2023 LynnRenee Bayley

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