Audio Reviews: August 2021
Listen to the majority of these recordings in the ICA August Reviews Spotify Playlist!
The Clarinet Online – Audio Reviews May 2021
Transient Canvas: Right Now, In A Second. Amy Advocat, bass clarinet; Matt Sharrock, marimba. B. White: Fool Me Once; J. B. Holland: Rebounds; E. Koh: \very/ specifically vague; C. Ingram: Cold column, calving; C. Pascucci: resonance imaging; S. Lubkowski: Right now, in a second; K. Kirchoff: Monochrome. New Focus Recordings, FCR 267. Total Time: 58:50.
Transient Canvas, a Boston-based duo that consists of bass clarinetist Amy Advocat and marimbist Matt Sharrock, delivers a superb display of thought-provoking works on their latest album, Right Now, In A Second.
The first track on the album, Fool Me Once, is a delightfully fun piece that showcases a driving rhythm and incredible control between the two artists. The next track, Rebounds, is written in a manner similar to short piano character pieces of the Romantic Era with the musicians playing off of each other in an almost conversational manner. The third track, \very/ specifically vague, is described in the liner notes as “an observation describing the usage of Singlish in an r/Singapore discussion on Reddit.” Although the majority of the piece consists of trills and tremolos, Advocat’s superb playing creates the most musical and exciting trills/tremolos that I have heard. The fifth track, resonance imaging, is a powerful piece that reflects on the composer, Crystal Pascucci, having time spent getting an MRI test. The piece begins with lots of percussive sounds, not only from Sharrock, but also from Advocat producing some really impressive slap tonguing. Multiphonics also add to the eerie sounds that represent the MRI machine. The next track shares the title of the album, Right Now, In A Second. This piece is an exploratory work in various sounds that keeps the listeners enthralled. The album ends with Monochrome. While much of the album is a calm soundscape, this piece is another driving, almost minimalistic work.
From start to finish this album is remarkable and incredibly creative, both in compositions and in performance. Amy Advocat played microtones, multiphonics, and other techniques on the bass clarinet with such ease and perfection. A must-have for those interested in new music.
– Jeremy Wohletz
Jazzical Journeys. Gary Gray, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Bryan Pezzone, piano; Juliette Gray, spoken word; Amy Sanchez, horn; Timothy Emmons, bass; Virginia Figueiredo, clarinet; Simone Vitucci, cello; Ben Powell, violin; MB Gordy, percussion; Jazzical Ensemble. G. Gershwin: Gary’s Gershwin; W. A. Mozart/D. Raskin: Mozart-Laura; A.C. Jobim/L. Bonfá: Obrigado Brasil; A. C. Jobim: Estrada Branca; B. Pezzone: Fantasie De La Mer; Bryan’s Berceuse; E. Garner/J. Burke: Misty; J. Kern: All the Things You Are; D. Ellington: Ellington Medley; R. Rogers: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. Independent Release. Total Time: 77:00.
Jazzical Journeys features clarinetist/saxophonist Gary Gray and is described as “a hybrid of styles and genres between classical, jazz and movie music.” The journey begins with the iconic glissando from Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and proceeds to showcase a number of other Gershwin favorites. The next tune features another famous piece of the clarinet repertoire, but with a twist. Mozart-Laura starts and ends with the second movement of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, which bookends the theme song from the movie Laura. The next two tracks, Obrigado Brasil and Estrada Branca, have a more Brazilian feel and features tunes from the “father of bossa nova,” Antonio Carlos Jobim. Estrada Branca also features Juliette Gray providing spoken word. Gray really shines, both on clarinet and saxophone on these tunes. Different timbres showcase his flexibility and mastery of the instruments, and his style and nuanced playing makes you feel as if you are actually in Brazil. The next tune, Fantasie De La Mer, is a work by pianist on the album, Brian Pezzone, and was done as a commission for Gray to showcase his musical styles. The next two tracks feature the standards, Misty and All the Things You Are, with the latter featuring spoken word by Juliette Gray. After that is a wonderful medley arrangement of some of Duke Ellington’s works. The album ends with another spoken word selection, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, from the 1940 Rodgers and Hart musical Pal Joey and a solo piano work, Bryan’s Berceuse, which pays homage to the lullaby variation of Chopin.
My one complaint of this particular album is the actual recording and mix. There are times when some registers get lost in the solo clarinet and some tracks are significantly louder or softer than others. Other than that, this album is full of wonderfully fun arrangements that will surely keep your toes tapping.
– Jeremy Wohletz
Roberto Milano: Cuatro Concertinos para instrumentos de aliento y orquesta de cuerdas. Kathleen Jones, clarinete; Joshua Pantoja, trompa; Josué Casillas, flauta; Edgar Abraham, saxofón; Orquesta de Cuerdas del Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico, Emanuel Olivieri, director. R. Milano: Concertino para clarinete y orquesta de cuerdas; Concertino para trompa y orquesta de cuerdas; Concertino para flauta y orquesta de cuerdas; Concertino para saxofón alto y orquesta de cuerdas. Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico. Total Time: 62:00.
Faculty and students of the Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico have put forth a beautiful collection of wind solo concerti, commemorating Roberto Milano, one of the most renowned former professors of their institution.
Roberto Milano’s rich and successful musical life led him, among other milestones, to move from the U.S. to Puerto Rico in the 1970s where he served as a professor at the Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico (CMPR). In a unique style that can be described as neo-tonal, Milano’s music includes elements from various musical periods and geographical locations, especially Spanish-influenced areas. Having put forth a distinctive musical idiom and having created a large output of expressive works, Milano has become somewhat of a cultural icon. However, not all of his music has yet received the public attention it deserves or been published.
All four wind concertinos on this album are unique, while they also have common traits. As can be hoped for in a solo composition, each of the concertinos features the solo instrument in a way that allows for its idiomatic expressivity and technical possibilities to shine. The solo performers, Kathleen Jones (clarinet), Joshua Pantoja (horn), Josué Casillas (flute), and Edgar Abraham (alto saxophone), are playing with the utmost skill underscoring their instruments’ characteristics and colors.
In the clarinet work, the Concertino para clarinete y orquesta de cuerdas (2004), clarinetist Kathleen Jones beautifully highlights the conflictual yet dance-like atmosphere of the first movement, contrasts it efficiently in the sweeter second movement, and leads convincingly through the more technically and rhythmically complex third movement. The listener can enjoy some passages reminiscent of Silvestre Revueltas’s energy.
The string orchestra of the Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico plays with a beautifully rich yet clear and warm sound. Some passages feature textures with rhythmic consonance, and the body of sound and balance are especially stunning there.
One can hope that this album will serve as a resource and inspiration, encouraging performers and listeners to discover and re-discover more of Milano’s music.
– Barbara Heilmair
Richards Wind Quintet: Johann Peter Müller Woodwind Quintets. Israel Borouchoff, flute; Daniel Stolper, oboe; Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr, clarinet; Edgar Kirk, bassoon; Douglas Campbell, horn. J. P. Müller: Quintet No. 1 in Eb; Quintet No. 2 in C Minor; Quintet No. 3 in A. Crystal Records, CD252. Total Time: 47:04.
The album with Three Wind Quintets No. 1 in Eb; No. 2 in C Minor; and No. 3 in A by Peter Müller (1791-1877) has received reviews in various media since its release in 2021. Formerly an LP/ Vinyl, the recordings were digitally remastered and are now available in CD format.
This recording is valuable because it documents three, if not more, valuable niches in the landscape of recordings. First, Peter Müller’s wind quintets occupy an important place in the history of wind quintet literature. Along with Taffanel’s quintet, these quintets are a bridge between the classical and early Romantic periods.
Second, the recording allows access to the performance of a once well-known ensemble that now has only two surviving members, Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr (84) and Douglas Campbell (96). The fact that the album has been re-released digitally pays tribute to the significance of the ensemble, the Richards Wind Quintet.
The recording was made in 1976, which leads us to the third very interesting aspect of this collection: while all performers (Israel Borouchoff, flute; Daniel Stolper, oboe; Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr, clarinet; Douglas Campbell, horn; and Edgar Kirk, bassoon) played at a very high level in their time, we can observe some changes in technical and stylistic approach that have occurred in the 45 years since the recording was made. Considering that the methods and technology that performers have today were not at hand at the time, and taking into account that aesthetics undergo changes with time, this is still a testimony of elegant professional ensemble playing. Observations from listening to this recording can even provide information for research on the changes in recording and performing since the 1970s.
Much can be enjoyed and learned with this beautiful recording!
– Barbara Heilmair
Nature: Chamber Music for (Bass) Clarinet. Fie Schouten, clarinet, basset horn, bass clarinet; Jelte Althuis, bass clarinet; Eva van de Poll, violoncello; Tatiana Koleva, percussion. C. Tsoupaki: Calling; O. Messiaen: Abîme des oiseaux; J. Harvey: Cirrus Light; K. Saariaho: Oi Kuu; G. Aperghis: Façade-Trio; M. Finnissy: Mankind ReMix. Sol Classics, 010. Total Time: 39:35.
Nature: Chamber Music for (Bass) Clarinet is an album with a wealth of new music written specifically for the low clarinet family. Many of the works are for unaccompanied instruments along with two works for bass clarinet as a chamber instrument.
Written for Fie Schouten in 2015, Calling by Tsoupaki showcases her lyrical, soft dynamic playing. Schouten’s ability to use timbral definition to highlight the growth of intensity in repeated passages creates a sense of movement much like floating. Extended techniques including quarter tones, short glissandi and timbral trills accent the melodic lines. This piece is called a “lamento” by the performer and mimics the emotional build leading to deep sobbing.
Schouten performs Messiaen’s landmark work, Abîme de oiseaux on the basset horn in this recording, which alone makes it interesting. The timbre of the basset horn is a nice addition to the soft and mysterious opening of the piece. Schouten’s understanding of the low clarinet family shines with her ability to control the full range of the instrument producing a tone quality that is smooth and dark, lending to a recording that is truly unique and special.
Harvey’s Cirrus Light is strategically placed after two lyrical works highlighting the disjunct micro-themes and phrases present in the music. After hearing Schouten’s mastery of the low clarinets, we are treated to a piece that features her soprano clarinet playing, which is equally as colorful, alive, effervescent and beautifully presented in this work. Schouten’s command of the extreme ranges of the instrument and variety of articulations are showcased here.
Saariaho’s Oi Kuu translates to “Oh Moon.” In this homage to moon phases for bass clarinet and violoncello, Schouten exhibits stellar ensemble playing. Her control of bass clarinet multiphonics is astounding here; all notes are clear and balanced. Combined with de Poll’s command of harmonic use and balance, the listener is treated to a unique palate of color that sounds unlike anything else on the album.
Similar to the Saariaho work, Aperghis’s Façade-Trio makes full use of all sonic possibilities on the bass clarinet. We hear Schouten and Althuis bringing life to this intense and emotional conversation between two bass clarinets. Koleva does a breathtaking job playing the percussion in such a delicate yet present way that sounds well-balanced and thoughtful.
Referred to by Schouten as a special bonus track, Mankind ReMix is a work written for her by Finnissy, and in the words of the composer, “about human nature, and mankind as cultivator of nature.” Thematically, this works well at the end of the album because it ties all previous works together. Schouten’s unaccompanied bass clarinet playing is again featured in this stirring and lyrical work with declamatory melodies evoking imagery of standing on a mountaintop overlooking a vast swath of land. Schouten captures the depth of character with a gorgeous, warm sound used to elegantly phrase and connect even the largest intervals to create a sense of vast isolation that is somehow familiar.
The diversity of works presented combined with Schouten’s expert performance on bass clarinet, basset horn and soprano clarinet make this album is a must-listen for all connoisseurs of low clarinet and its music.
– Vanessa Davis
Alisios Camerata: Introductions. Radovan Cavallin, clarinet; Vlatka Peljhan, violin; Alja Mandič, violoncello; Mia Elezović, piano. I. J. Skender: Introductions; O. Jelaska: Wind in Mount Carmel; D. Bobić: Menorah; F. Parać: Quartet for Clarinet, Violin, Cello and Piano; D. Detoni: Alisios Variations. Cantus HDS, 88924500792. Total Time: 53:57.
The Croatian ensemble Alisios Camerata, comprised of clarinetist Radovan Cavallin; violinist Vlatka Peljhan; cellist Alja Mandič; and pianist Mia Elezović, has performed throughout Europe and around the world. Their album Introductions features five pieces for this instrumentation, four of which were premiered by Alisios Camerata between 2013 and 2016.
Ivan Josip Skender’s Introductions begins with a clarinet solo artfully interpreted by Cavallin, whose sense of style and flair enhances the “improvisational character” of this piece. The ensemble performs with excellent intonation and synchronization throughout their numerous phrases in octaves, creating the illusion of a new, multi-timbred instrument.
Olja Jelaska’s Vjetar u planini Karmel (Wind in Mount Carmel) provides several opportunities for the performers to display their impressive technical abilities in full force. Cavallin’s warm timbre blends nicely with the lower sonority of the cello and piano. The ensemble handles the various styles and characters of the piece with great aplomb, ranging from sensitive and intimate to overtly bombastic.
Menora (Menorah) by Davor Bobić is constructed largely of whirlwinds of trills and chromatic figures wonderfully nuanced by all performers to create artistry out of simple materials. Bobić alternates these moments of frenzy with introspective lyrical passages highlighted by Cavallin’s exquisite sense of legato.
The minimalist atmosphere in Frano Parać’s Kvartet (Quartet) begins with a sensitive exchange of melodic line between clarinet and strings, meticulously handed off from one to the next. This quickly gives way to a loud and aggressive section, kicked off by Cavallin’s energetic and immaculate articulation in the altissimo register. In the rousing conclusion, Cavallin’s smooth glissandi and scales enhance the already tense and driving atmosphere.
Dubravko Detoni’s Alisios varijacije (Alisios Variations) provides a modernist and atmospheric ending to this recording. Cavallin and the ensemble do a fine job of navigating the abstract technical passages, making the unusual patterns sound effortless. The ensemble does an excellent job of matching one another and unifying their styles and dynamics through the rapidly shifting characters of this music.
This recording comes with detailed liner notes about the musicians and compositions, written in both Croatian and English. Introductions is a thorough and polished collection of contemporary works for this combination of instruments; clarinetists that enjoy performing with Messiaen ensemble will definitely enjoy this recording!
– David Cook
Single Reed Expressions Volume 2: A Clarinet and Saxophone Recital Series. Ronald L. Caravan, clarinet, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone; Sar-Shalom Strong, piano. R. Schumann: Fantasy Pieces, Op. 73 for Clarinet and Piano; W. Osborne: Rhapsody for Clarinet Solo; W. S. Hartley: Metamorphoses for Clarinet and Piano; Diversions for Soprano Saxophone and Piano; Duo for Alto Saxophone and Piano; S. Rachmaninoff: Vocalise, Op. 34 adapted for Soprano Saxophone and Piano; W. Benson: Aeolian Song for Alto Saxophone and Piano; R. L. Caravan: Sketch for Alto Saxophone Solo; P. Creston: Sonata, Op. 19 for Alto Saxophone and Piano. Mark Records, 51602-MCD. Total Time: 70:00.
Ronald Caravan released his album, Single Reed Expressions Volume 2, in 2015 featuring Sar-Shalom Strong on piano. On it Caravan plays clarinet, as well as soprano and alto saxophones. The interesting and informative liner notes for the clarinet repertoire are written by David Abrams, while Paul Cohen provides those for the saxophone. The clarinet offerings on this album are traditional, but expertly performed.
The Fantasiestucke, Op. 73 by Robert Schumann opens the album and Caravan displays his deeply emotional expressive abilities in the first movement. The second movement highlights Caravan’s velvety and fluid tone, as well as his playful communication with the pianist. This playfulness carries through into the third movement, in which Strong particularly sparkles and the pair engage the listener in a way that reminds one of why this piece is a staple of the repertoire. Next on the album is the Rhapsody by Wilson Osborne. In this performance, Caravan’s playing is both introspective and volatile as the piece calls for it. His clarity of tone and delicate rubato are perfectly suited to this work. Caravan’s flexibility in style and commitment to musicality are a joy to hear in the Metamorphoses by Walter S. Hartley. This piece is a welcome contrast to the first two, with appropriately harsh glissandi and flutter tongues, which Caravan performs with ease. It is clear that Caravan has an affection for this composer, both through his beautiful performance of the work, and his inclusion of Hartley’s Diversions for Soprano Saxophone and Piano, as well as his Duo for Alto Saxophone and Piano on the album. The other saxophone repertoire on the album includes a transcription of the Rachmaninoff Vocalise, Op. 34 for soprano saxophone, as well as alto saxophone pieces by Warren Benson, Paul Creston and Ronald Caravan himself.
Overall, this is an enjoyable album that would be welcome in the library of any single reed enthusiast.
– Madelyn Moore
37Fern. Claron McFadden, voice; Kristina Fuchs, voice; Oğuz Büyükberber, clarinet, bass clarinet; Tobias Klein, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet. Traditional/arr. O. Büyükberber: Zeynep Kizi; Aci Meleke; T. Klein: Trog; Losungen; C. McFadden/K. Fuchs/O. Büyükberber/T. Klein: Calliste; Asparagus; O. Büyükberber: Sis; A Glove Turned Around; C. McFadden/O. Büyükberber: Kale; O. Büyükberber/T. Klein: Dandelion. Trytone, TT559-083. Total Time: 45:00.
37Fern is a fascinating album resulting from the collaboration of Oğuz Büyükberber on clarinet and bass clarinet, Tobias Klein on bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet, as well as vocalists Claron McFadden and Kristina Fuchs. On Büyükberber’s website, he says that the project, “aims for a unique and dynamic chamber music experience.” In this respect, it definitely delivers!
The first piece, Zeynep Kizi, is a traditional piece, arranged by Büyükberber which features the vocalists moving in close harmonies and the low clarinets performing improvisatory lines. Indeed, Büyükberber says that this project is, “blending the line between composition and improvisation.” To that end, there are several moments that are very reminiscent of free jazz throughout the album. However, in stark contrast stands the third piece, Aci Meleke, another traditional work arranged by Büyükberber, is solidly rhythmic and harmonically stable in a way that reminds this listener of a John Williams score. The fourth work, Calliste, is energetic with unusual changes in vocal technique from barks, to buzzes, to whispers and the fifth track, Sis features an extended, languid altissimo bass clarinet line that the voice mimics impeccably.
Each track is like a new world to discover. All of the works are composed by one or more of the members of the performing ensemble and are each fascinating in their own way. The performance technique of the musicians involved is outstandingly clean and the ensemble’s commitment to and flexibility of style is astonishing. The two clarinetists show great versatility on all of the instruments, and play with exemplary tone in the sections that are clear and lyrical, cool jazz style when appropriate, and clear enthusiasm for the avant-garde in those sections that incorporate more contemporary techniques like slap tongue and finger clicks. The album concludes with Losungen, composed by Klein, which opens with the two vocalists in a cute, staccato duet, before the low clarinets enter and bring the album to an exciting finish.
– Madelyn Moore