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Charles CAMILLERI (b.1931)
Four Greek Songs for clarinet and piano
Dirge 11.09.01 for clarinet and piano
Duo Sonata for bass clarinet and piano
Divertimento No. 2 for clarinet and piano
Shomyo for solo clarinet
Three Folk Songs from Malta for clarinet and piano
Trio No. 2 for clarinet, cello and piano
David Campbell (clarinet)
Julian Jacobson (piano)
Zoë Martlew (cello)
MERIDIAN CDE 84470 [68.13]


The Maltese composer Charles Camilleri has achieved a clutch of CDs since the early 1990s. There were two (presumably unavailable now) on Unicorn including a particularly valuable collection of three piano concertos.

The Four Greek Songs are florid, exotic, wild and heady with perfumed breezes from the Middle East. They date from Camilleri's years in London in the late 1950s. The Three Folk Songs from Malta date from 1971 and were originally for violin and piano. These are slightly more thorny than their folk counterparts of two decades earlier. The first song in the later set ends in a defining Gershwin-like swoop ascending way up to the top of the clarinet's register. The modernity of this sequence links with the approachable avant-garderie of Berio's Folksongs.

The 9.11 Dirge reflects the composer's reaction to those appalling events. This is done in profundity and in the depths of despair, with screeching clarinet offering the dissonant keys to disillusion. Originally written for bass clarinet and vibraphone the Duo Sonata is in three truculent but dissonantly lyrical movements. The 1957 Divertimento No. 2 is again dissonant and jazzy although well in touch with lyrical continuity. The lovely second movement is a prize: more pastoral singer than bluesman but certainly ‘bluesy’. The beguiling Shomyo actually sounds more English than it does Tibetan or Mongolian … but then it is pentatonic. In its 5.22 it never sounds like Hovhaness. Discontinuity on the other hand is the key in the Second Clarinet Trio of which it seems similar in structure to the Piano Trio. The clarinet shrieks and flitters while the piano rushes and gibbers. While folksong returns in the Libero third movement it is kaleidoscopically polarised and subjected to transformational deconstruction. Happy-ish voices can be heard in the allegro moderato but the casing and manner is modern: dissonance is not discouraged. Listen to the malcontented contribution of the cello - almost a protest.

This is Meridian's second Camilleri disc. The first involving Campbell and Jacobson again is CDE 84407. It included Trio New York, Divertimento No. 2, Sarajevo 99, Tibet, Sonatina, Orbits and American Portraits variously for two clarinets, clarinet trio and clarinet and piano.

Camilleri is an intriguing composer whose embracing of modern techniques has produced a rewarding synthesis with his early and continuing association with Mediterranean folksong. It is time we heard more substantial orchestral works from Camilleri.

Rob Barnett

see also review by Hubert Culot


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