Classical CD: Milos, The Clarinotts

By William Dart

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It takes a particularly stalwart soul to brave summer humidity with a bracing Bruckner symphony. For some, lighter relief has arrived, obligingly held over from the Christmas marketing tsunami.

Milos Karadaglic has his own niche as Deutsche Grammophon's poster-boy guitarist, with albums like Latino Gold and Mediterraneo and their fashion-shoot covers.

The charm of those has somewhat faded on Karadaglic's latest release, Blackbird, an undistinguished journey through 15 classic Beatles songs.

Determined not to use the unfailingly elegant transcriptions of Japanese composer Toru Takamitsu, Karadaglic enlists arranger Sergio Assad to ensure what he optimistically describes as his "own unique contemporary spin".

Alas, they are leaden affairs, earthbound where they should be soaring, whether in a plod through Yesterday or an All my Loving that sets off in unctuous waltz time.

Over-wrought string arrangements by Christopher Austin do not help, nor do distinguished guests. Steven Isserlis contributes cello doodlings on Michelle while singer Tori Amos emotes her way through She's Leaving Home, sad this, when the original was a minor masterpiece of the dispassionate.

Deutsche Grammophon offers another trip on the light side but done with such palpable affection that it's difficult not to succumb.

Andreas Ottensamer, the label's ultra-glam clarinet soloist (who just happens to be a principal player with the Berlin Philharmonic) returns with the trio, The Clarinotts, alongside his father Ernst and brother Daniel.

The set opens stylishly with the two brothers in Mendelssohn's Concert Piece Opus 113 for clarinet and bassett horn, duetting over the suave Vienna Virtuosi.

Its graceful melancholy finds echoes in Olivier Truan's contemporary klezmer duet that finds the pair signing off the disc.

A punchy ride through Bonfa's Manha de Carnaval, flamboyantly led by pianist Frantisek Janoska co-exists with exquisite poetry in an arrangement of a Jean Francaix saxophone quartet.

Only the soulless would not be swayed by the sweet concord of clarinets and bassett horn in Mozart's celebrated Cosi fan Tutte trio, and only an emotional skinflint could repress a smile at Erich Schagerl's boisterous arrangement of Rossini's La Danza, peppered with quotes from the composer's opera William Tell.

Verdict: Summertime fare finds classical artists tripping and tripping up on the lighter side.

Milos Blackbird (Mercury Classics)

The Clarinotts (Deutsche Grammophon)

- Weekend magazine

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