A wonderful recording of Mozart and Weber works brimming with beautiful sonorities, imaginative colors and brooding dynamics. A smooth and elegant expressivity from this Polish virtuoso clarinetist who now makes Toronto, Canada his home base.
4 MP3 Songs in this album (37:28) !
Related styles: Classical: Mozart, Classical: Classical era, Solo Male Artist
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Highly praised on two continents for his glorious tone, precise technical control and musical imagination,
Kornel Wolak is well on his way to a major career as a soloist and chamber musician in both classical
and cross-over repertoire. Critics have hailed him for his playing that showed “admirable calm and
patience in shaping beautiful sonorities…full of energy,” (Andrzej Chylewski, Glos Wielkopolski);
“beautiful [playing] in the lyric selections…a lot of imaginative colors, dynamics, and rubato,” (Jolanta
Brozda, Gazeta Wyborcza), and “control and a smooth, elegant expressivity are what make Wolak
shine,” (John Terauds, Toronto Star).
As a member of the renowned Quartetto Gelato from 2007 to 2009, Wolak performed on its 2009
recording, Musica Latina. He also appears as soloist on a 2007 CD of Karol Kurpinski’s Clarinet
Concerto, released by Channel II of Polish Radio – a CD that was nominated for Poland’s highest
recording award, the “Fryderyk”. Wolak is a regular fixture on the airwaves, including CBC Radio 2,
Classical 96.3 FM, Public Radio International, and in the US, on National Public Radio.
Kornel Wolak’s artistry has been admired by audiences at over 90 concerts in North America alone. As
a soloist, he has performed with the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Sinfonietta, Poland’s Poznan
Philharmonic Orchestra’s opening 60th season gala concert, the Polish Radio Chamber Orchestra, and
Charleston (North Carolina) Symphony Orchestra, amongst others. He has a return engagement with
the Poznan Philharmonic later in 2010. As a chamber musician, he has appeared with the Wieniawski
String Quartet, the Glenn Gould String Quartet, and the Lodos Wind Quintet. His orchestral experience
includes regular freelancing with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, as well as other Ontario orchestras.
Intent on increasing the clarinet repertoire, Wolak has performed the Canadian premiere of John Adams’
“Gnarly Buttons” Clarinet Concerto, broadcast on CBC Radio 2, and Marc Neikrug’s Through Roses at
the Glenn Gould Studio.
Also devoted to music education, Wolak established Music Mind Canada (MMC), an initiative that
designs, promotes, and produces educational programs for schools, local communities, and other
groups interested in learning about music. Well-structured “theme recitals” are one of many ways that
he introduces music to wide audiences. The Włocławek Tribute noted that “Mr. Wolak’s natural way of
connecting with the audience made his educational series of recitals entitled From B(ach) to Z(emlinsky)
an unexpected learning through the art experience for everyone….with his excellent balance of playing,
lecturing, and demonstrating made the music accessible…. The audience was moved by the music,
properly informed by the artist, and thoroughly entertained.” Between 2007 and 2009 alone, Wolak has
performed more than two dozen school shows across Canada and the US, promoting classical and
cross-over music to young audiences.
Wolak won the Royal Conservatory’s Concerto Competition in 2006, the Glenn Gould School’s 2005
Concerto Competition and the Presser Music Award from the Presser Foundation. Earlier, as a student,
he won first prize in the Poznan Clarinet Wind Instruments Competition, the Polish All-Wind Instruments
Competition, and the Indiana University Clarinet Department Competition. He has honed his craft
through studies with clarinet masters at summer music festivals in Prague, Paris and elsewhere.
Dedicated to being a fully rounded wind player, Wolak has also studied period instrument performance.
Most recently, Wolak has been awarded a tour by Debut Atlantic series in the Fall of 2011. It will give
him the opportunity to promote classical music across Atlantic Canada.
Born in Bialystok, Poland in 1979 into a musical family (his father was a trumpeter and his mother a
violist), Wolak began piano lessons at six, and took up the clarinet six years later. After early studies
at the Music Academy of Poznan and subsequently, at the Musical Lyceum, in 2001, he was a scholarship
student at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, where he earned his performance certificate
and, two years later, his Master of Music degree while studying with Eli Eban. He put his doctorate
on hold in order to pursue advanced orchestral studies under Joaquin Valdepeñas at the Glenn Gould
School of Music in Toronto in the fall of 2005, where he earned an Artist’s Diploma.
Kornel Wolak’s interests include art history, religion, philosophy, and poetry. In Poland, his poetry –
focused on human existence and spirituality – has been published in many young Polish poets’
magazines and compilations.
In 2007 Maestro Stratton joined the ranks of renowned individuals to receive the Czech Republic''s
Gratias Agit Award for his significant contribution to promoting Czech culture. He has conducted orchestras
in 27 countries throughout Europe, North America and Asia. His recordings, on Dorian, Hungaraton,
and other labels include; the Moscow Symphony featuring music by Czech and Russian
composers, Alan Hovhaness'' Celestial Fantasy, with the Slovak Radio Orchestra, an all-Dvorak CD with
the Prague Radio Orchestra, Liszt''s De Profundis with the Hungarian State Symphony, and an all-
Brahms CD with the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra. After a 22 year tenure as Conductor and Music
Director of the Toronto Philharmonia Maestro Stratton now leads the Toronto Concert Orchestra as
its Conductor and Music Director. He also founded and conducts the Grand Salon Orchestra, Canada''s
Palm Court Orchestra, which recreates the elegant salon era of the early 20th century. Through his
International Touring Productions, he has introduced Canadian audiences to such renowned orchestras
as Budapest''s Georg Solti Orchestra, the Vienna Concert-Verein, the Czech Philharmonic, the Slovak
Sinfonietta, and Orchestra Internationale d''Italia.
The Slovak Sinfonietta
The Slovak Sinfonietta of Zilina was founded in 1974. Many of the orchestra’s current 38 players are
winners of international competitions. The Slovak Sinfonietta has performed more than 2,300 concerts
across the globe and is one of only three orchestras, together with the Vienna and the Berlin Philharmonics,
that appear annually at the Vienna Music Festivals. The orchestra performs mostly music from
the late 18th and first half of the 19th centuries, but in its broad repertoire are 20th century works
including jazz and popular music. As well, the orchestra reflects its origins by championing the work
of such Slovak and Czech composers as Hummel, Vanhal, Suk and Dvorak. Recordings by The Slovak
Sinfonietta are available on Opus, Donau, Naxos, Brilliant Classics and BMG music labels.
Mozart, like Brahms, turned to the clarinet as he approached his own death. The pure, almost otherworldly
sound of the early clarinet was offset by its many technical flaws, including poor intonation, discontinuity between
its low and high registers, and spontaneous loud squeaks and coos. Only after meeting virtuoso clarinettist
Anton Stadler in the 1780s was Mozart inspired to write major works for the instrument: Stadler, the
son of a shoemaker, was then first clarinet in the court orchestra, and had invented a so-called “basset clarinet”
with an extended and richly toned low register. All of Mozart’s late clarinet works–the Clarinet Quintet,
Kegelstatt Trio, and this Concerto–exploit Stadler’s remarkable technique and tone with wide leaps, large
runs and arpeggios, and lyric melodies embracing both registers. The Concerto for Clarinet was the last major
work Mozart completed, and is notable for the delicate, chamber-music-like interplay between soloist and orchestra.
Though each of the movements is in a major key – the opening is a robust Allegro and the third
movement a sprightly gigue – many have heard the work as Mozart’s swan song. The elegiac, autumnal
strains in the famous Adagio perhaps signal the composer’s awareness of his encroaching death, just weeks
Carl Maria von Weber, on the contrary, wrote his Concertino for Clarinet as a young man of twenty-five, and
the work’s great success inaugurated the most productive period of his career. A musical polymath, Weber
was a child prodigy whose musician father tried to market him as a new Mozart: these colourful adventures
briefly led to prison and exile for both father and son. In 1811, ten years before he would write his seminal
German opera Die Freischütz, Weber encountered the clarinettist Heinrich Baermann. Baermann was one
of the most important soloists of his time, and played on a revolutionary ten-key clarinet. Weber wrote of his
“remarkable homogeneity of tone from top to bottom” and “heavenly tasteful delivery.” The Concertino, written
in three days, is a highly dramatic work in one movement. Following a slow introduction of high-operatic
drama, marked “recitativo ad lib.,” the music unfolds in something like variation form, with each consecutive
section showcasing a different quality of the instrument, until these elements are drawn together in a showstopping
Both pieces on this recording represent landmarks in the development of the clarinet, promoting Stadler’s
and Baermann’s cutting-edge techniques and instruments to other performers. Since the turn of the nineteenth
century, instrument makers have succeeded in eliminating the flaws of the early clarinet while preserving its
unique tone. Like Stadler and Baermann, Kornel Wolak plays on the most modern instrument available
Conducted and Produced by Kerry Stratton
Executive Producers : Ann Summers & Shaun Pilot
Recorded May 2010 by Vadim Beili at George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto
Photography: Robert M. DiVito
Art Direction: Shaun Pilot. Layout: Jud Haynes