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Daniel KESSNER (b.1946) Circling (1981-82) [14.37]; Frank CAMPO (b.1927) Fantasy (2003) [6:31]; Daniel HOSKEN Clarinet, Interrupted (2002) [12:33]; Liviu MARINESCU Homage Collage (2005) [11:58]; Gary SCHOCKER (b.1959) Dear Diary (1995) [7:38] William TOUTANT (b.1948) Sonatina (2002) [9:38]
Julia Heinen (clarinet); Shari Raynor (piano)
rec. 23-25 May 2005, Recital Hall, California State University, Northridge. DDD
CENTAUR CRC 2861 [62:47]

Experience Classicsonline

This disc features works for clarinet by Faculty members at California State University, Northridge, and demonstrates the quality of work going on there.

Daniel Kessner also works as a conductor and flute player. I have previously encountered his works for alto and bass flute, which are skilfully composed and full of imagination. Circling, for clarinet and piano, dates from the early 1980s. The opening movement is calm and highly atmospheric. Kessnerís harmonies are richly sonorous and the music constantly evolves to hold our attention. The energy increases significantly for the second movement, Scherzando, which is a sprightly movement with virtuosic demands. Here the reason for the title of the work is most evident, with repeated patterns and melodic lines returning to their point of origin. Kessner uses varying rhythmic patterns to drive the momentum forwards. The final movement makes use of alternative fingerings to change the timbral quality of some of the notes, an effect which appears frequently and with great success in Kessnerís music. He appears to have an instinctive understanding of the instruments he writes for, sometimes pushing them to the limits but without losing the focus of his musical intentions. This movement is calm and more static, contrasting well with the Scherzando. There are some wonderful moments of shifting harmony, and the ending is magical. This is a wonderful piece, and I would urge anyone to seek out more of this composerís music.

Frank Campoís, Fantasy was composed in 2003 and is an evocative work for solo clarinet. Writing for a solo line instrument is notoriously difficult, but Campo is highly experienced in this area and the work is always convincing. He makes use of the full range of the clarinet, both in terms of pitch, sound and expression, creating an instrumental tour-de-force. Heinenís sound is warm and expressive, and the music flows with ease.

Clarinet, Interrupted was composed by Daniel Hosken in 2002. It explains in the sleeve-notes that the work Ďuses the technique of interruption to stop the driving flow of the music and introduce a quiet theme that grows from a few notes to many measures longí. The effect is dramatic; the opening mood is turbulent and challenging, with some technically demanding passages using high register clarinet and textural piano writing. This is well handled; there is wonderful evenness in the piano playing, creating a shimmering effect, and the clarinet is strong but not forced. The slower material which takes over is expansive and expressive, before the faster material returns, this time without interruptions, giving a sense of continuity until the piece reaches its conclusion.

The next piece is fascinating. Liviu Marinescuís Homage Collage contains a series of short movements which pay tribute to a wide range of different composers. The references are, at times, humorous, and delightfully convincing, with Marinescu using his compositional skill to hold the different styles together in a coherent form. Even if you knew nothing of the other composerís works, this would be an interesting piece of music, which acts as a showpiece for the instruments it uses. There are some wonderful clarinet flutter-tonguing moments in the Palestrina movement, serving as a fine example of the intelligence of this composer; Palestrinaís influence is obvious, and yet the harmonic and musical language is far removed from what one would associate with Palestrina. The final movement contains a variety of influences, and is entitled Bach, Debussy and others. As such, it serves to unify the work as a whole, and brings the work to a coherent end. This is an interesting work, and Iíd be very interested to hear more of Marinescuís music.

After the previous works, the tonal language of Gary Schockerís Dear Diary comes something as of a shock, and seems sickly sweet in comparison. As far as I am aware, Schocker is the only composer on this disc not to be associated with CSUN, and his writing style is so different from the rest of the disc, that I initially questioned its place on the CD. Having said that, Schocker is a talented composer whose works are popular, particularly in the USA, where he is best known. Also a well-known flute player, he has composed numerous works for flute. After a few moments of listening to Dear Diary, it is clear that it is a well constructed work, with strong melodic lines and a good understanding of the instruments he writes for. It is nostalgic and romantic, and conjures up images of a Hollywood film scene with a teenage girl sharing her innermost thoughts in a private diary entry. There is a sense of intimacy here which is well captured by the performers.

The final work on the disc is William Toutantís Sonatina, a highly enjoyable work with almost ten minuteís duration. This is a strong piece, with moments of rhythmic energy, spiky staccato lines and expressive melodies. There is a constant sense of drama and variety, and use of the extremes of the clarinetís pitch range and tone quality.

This is a well put together disc, with versatile performers and interesting, well-written repertoire. All of the composers represented have an individual voice and compose with true understanding of the instruments, providing some excellent repertoire for future generations of clarinet players. Julia Heinenís active role in commissioning many of these works is to be applauded. Shari Raynor is a duo partner rather than merely an accompanist, and the playing from the duo is excellent throughout, with variety of tone, clear communication of musical ideas and admirable technical control. Highly recommended.

Carla Rees


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